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Taming CannibalsRace and the Victorians$
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Patrick Brantlinger

Print publication date: 2011

Print ISBN-13: 9780801450198

Published to Cornell Scholarship Online: August 2016

DOI: 10.7591/cornell/9780801450198.001.0001

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King Billy’s Bones

King Billy’s Bones

The Last Tasmanians

(p.46) 2 King Billy’s Bones
Taming Cannibals

Patrick Brantlinger

Cornell University Press

This chapter details the missionary, humanitarian, and anthropological failure in Tasmania. The demise of the Tasmanian Aborigines involved a failure to protect and tame them which has sometimes mistakenly been cited as the only genocide in British imperial history. It compares George Augustus Robinson's journals and James Bonwick's writings on the final Tasmanians, a race that supposedly completely disappeared by 1876. The contrast illustrates the differences between missionary and early anthropological discourse in producing colonial knowledge, although neither approach would have saved the Tasmanian Aborigines from annihilation. Missionaries, of course, aimed to save the souls if not the bodies of savages and barbarians; Victorian anthropology developed as a way of preserving information about cultures that were widely understood to be doomed no matter how Europeans behaved.

Keywords:   Tasmania, Tasmanian Aborigines, missionaries, Victorian anthropology, George Augustus Robinson, James Bonwick

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