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George Augustus Robinson, the 'Great Conqueror': colonial celebrity and its postcolonial aftermath

Citation

Johnston, A, George Augustus Robinson, the 'Great Conqueror': colonial celebrity and its postcolonial aftermath, Postcolonial Studies, 12, (2) pp. 153-172. ISSN 1368-8790 (2009) [Refereed Article]


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Copyright Statement

Copyright 2009 The Institute of Postcolonial Studies

DOI: doi:10.1080/13688790902887155

Abstract

George Augustus Robinson, the 'Great Conciliator', conducted one of the most high profile and subsequently notorious experiments with indigenous people in the nineteenth-century British Empire. His 'removal' of Aborigines from the settler-dominated main island of Tasmania, the southernmost of the Australian colonies, was well known at the time: celebrated by many as the most efficacious resolution to frontier conflict, even as it was criticized by (some) liberal commentators. As Patrick Brantlinger argues, colonial, American, European and British commentators were acutely interested in the fate of indigenous peoples when they encountered Western civilization: the Tasmanian genocide (as it was known) 'offered a moral and political lesson in how the progress of empire and civilization could be badly botched'.

Ideas about Robinson and his 'mission' to the Tasmanian Aborigines have circulated in popular culture fromthe 1830s onwards. Avariety of mechanisms have kept Robinson in the public imagination. Benjamin Duterrau's portrait of Robinson in 'The Conciliation' memorably pictures a soft-faced Briton surrounded by his Aboriginal 'charges', whereas colonial and imperial commentators often positioned Robinson within the ranks of sanctioned representatives of the racial science of high imperialism. Alongside such representations, Robinson and the Tasmanian Aborigines were envisioned by popular newspapers, pamphleteers and writers in the Victorian economyís commodification of Empire. These imaginings of Robinson were as vigorous in imperial centres as in the colonies, and have continued to be so. Twentieth- and twenty-first-century authors - both Australian and international - seem compelled to re-imagine Robinsonís story.

Item Details

Item Type:Refereed Article
Keywords:George Augustus Robinson, Great Conciliator, Tasmanian Aborigines, removal
Research Division:Language, Communication and Culture
Research Group:Cultural Studies
Research Field:Postcolonial Studies
Objective Division:Expanding Knowledge
Objective Group:Expanding Knowledge
Objective Field:Expanding Knowledge in Languages, Communication and Culture
Author:Johnston, A (Associate Professor Anna Johnston)
ID Code:60771
Year Published:2009
Deposited By:English, Journalism and European Languages
Deposited On:2010-02-18
Last Modified:2015-07-09
Downloads:1 View Download Statistics

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