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Missionaries, Headhunters and Colonial Officers

Murders of miners and missionaries by Papuan warriors and reprisal massacres by patrol officers and magistrates were common in British New Guinea in the late 19th century. In 1901 the charismatic star of the London Missionary Society, the tough and experienced Reverend Chalmers, was lured into an ambush on Goaribari Island. Chalmers was known during his long career as ‘the Livingstone of New Guinea’. He and his party of twelve were beheaded and eaten. More than twenty Goaribaris were killed in a government reprisal raid. Another missionary, Harry Dauncey, found 10,000 skulls in the Goaribari Island’s Long Houses in 1901. Even as late as 1957, Australian government officials on one occasion confiscated 78 skulls on Papua’s Casuarina Coast. In 1903 the British began to pass control of the colony of BNG to the Australian government and a Brisbane solicitor, Christopher Robinson, was appointed acting governor.

In this extraordinary history Peter Maiden traces forty years of wild and exotic history in Papua New Guinea. The book is partly a celebration of the amazing achievements of the Reverend Chalmers and partly the tragedy of a fatal error by Governor Robinson

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Cat no: 3743