Hunting the Blackbirder: Ross Lewin and the Royal Navy

Hunt, Doug (2007) Hunting the Blackbirder: Ross Lewin and the Royal Navy. Journal of Pacific History, 42 (1). pp. 37-53.

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This paper draws from research on the life and times of the notorious Ross Lewin. It focuses on the Royal Navy's efforts to prevent abuses in the Southwest Pacific labour trade in the late 1860s and early 1870s, when Lewin was the most prominent recruiter of Islanders to Queensland. Official interest was sparked first by a sensational rape case brought against him in 1869. Over the next five years, until his death on his Tanna plantation, Lewin gained a reputation as 'the greatest man-stealer' in the Pacific. His most prominent adversaries, prompted by missionaries in the New Hebrides, were two commanders of HMS Rosario, George Palmer and Albert Markham. Their efforts to nail Lewin as a kidnapper were highlighted in best-selling accounts of their voyages, published in 1871 and 1873 respectively. Scrutiny of the record, however, suggests that these naval officers exaggerated - indeed they were partly responsible for — Lewin's reputation. Perhaps he was not the villain which the contemporary written word and 20th-century historiography suggests.

Item ID: 2405
Item Type: Article (Research - C1)
ISSN: 1469-9605
Keywords: Pacific history; labour trade; Royal Navy; kidnapping
Date Deposited: 07 May 2009 05:30
FoR Codes: 21 HISTORY AND ARCHAEOLOGY > 2103 Historical Studies > 210399 Historical Studies not elsewhere classified @ 0%
21 HISTORY AND ARCHAEOLOGY > 2103 Historical Studies > 210303 Australian History (excl Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander History) @ 50%
21 HISTORY AND ARCHAEOLOGY > 2103 Historical Studies > 210313 Pacific History (excl New Zealand and Maori) @ 50%
SEO Codes: 95 CULTURAL UNDERSTANDING > 9505 Understanding Past Societies > 950599 Understanding Past Societies not elsewhere classified @ 100%
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