Mr Peacock’s Possessions: sources and background reading


May 4, 2018 by Lydia Syson

As noted in the book, the most important sources for Mr Peacock’s Possessions were:

Elsie K Morton Crusoes of Sunday Island, 1957.

Steven Gentry, Raoul & the Kermadecs: New Zealand’s Northernmost Islands, Steele Roberts, 2013.

Margaret Pointer, Niue 1774-1974: 200 years of contact and change, Otago University Press, 2015.

SOAS London Missionary Society Archives

What follows now is not exactly a bibliography, and it’s as much for myself as anyone else – a way to get my reading over the last three years in some order, and a place where I can add new material as I come across it, as I have for my other novels. I don’t feel any great desire to ‘burnish my credentials‘! But others may also be interested, so here, more or less, is what’s influenced me in my thinking and writing about this book, and where I’ve found out most of what I needed to know. Where e-editions exist, I’ve given links. There is necessarily quite a bit of overlap between sections, and this is still a work in progress.

Online sources:

Te Ara : The Encyclopedia of New Zealand – Kermadecs section here

New Zealand Electronic Text Collection – Te Pūhikotuhi o Aotearoa, part of Victoria University of Wellington Library


Museum of New Zealand Te Papa Tongarewa – collections online

The Alexander Turnbull Library Collections – including the WRB Oliver photograph album of the 1908 Scientific expedition to the Kermadecs.

Oliver, Walter Reginald Brook, 1883-1957 :Photograph album of Kermadec Islands Expedition 1908. Ref: PA1-q-135-29-2. Alexander Turnbull Library, Wellington, New Zealand. /records/22742380

Goats on steep terrain, Raoul Island. Oliver, Walter Reginald Brook, 1883-1957 Photograph album of Kermadec Islands Expedition 1908. Ref: PA1-q-135-29-2. Alexander Turnbull Library, Wellington, New Zealand. /records/22742380


Raoul and the Kermadecs

NZ Geographic special focus on the Kermadecs

Kermadec: Art Across the Pacific, Pew Charitable Trusts, 2013

Roger Duff, ‘Stone adzes from Raoul, Kermadec Islands’, in Journal of the Polynesian Society, Volume 77, No. 4, 1968

Latest report on Kermadecs bird population from the NZ seabird trust:

Niue, ‘Polynesia’, Oceania (history and historiography)

Niue: A History of the Island, written by the leading citizens of the country itself, published jointly by the Institute of Pacific Studies of the University of the South Pacific & the Government of Niue (dual language), 1982

Basil C Thomson, Savage Island: An Account of a Sojourn in Niue and Tonga, London, John Murray, 1902

Edwin M Loeb, History and Traditions of Niue, (Bernice P. Bishop Museum Bulletin 32, Honolulu, Hawaii. Published by the Museum, 1926) [and review by Margaret Mead, American Anthropologist, New Series, Vol. 30, No. 1 (Jan. – Mar., 1928), pp. 151-155

Edwin M Loeb, ‘The Shaman of Niue’, American Anthropologist, Vol.26(3), July 1924, pp.393-402

S. Percy Smith, Niue-fekai (or Savage) Island and its People, 1903

Patrick D Nunn, ‘Notes and documents: Myths and the Formation of Niue Island, Central South Pacific, The Journal of Pacific History, Vol.39(1), 2004, p.99-108

Safua Akeli and Shane Pasens ‘Exploring “The Rock”: Material culture from Niue Island in Te Papa’s Pacific Cultures Collection’, Tuhinga, vol 11, Museum of NZ Te Papa Tongarewa, Wellington, 2011, 101-24  (available online: – see also Te Papa’s blog: A poncho…

Sue Lachlan, ‘Savage Island or Savage History: An Interpretation of Early European Contact with Niue’, Pacific Studies; Laie, Hawaii Vol. 6, Iss. 1,  (Fall 1982): 26.

Richard A. Goodman, ‘Some aitu beliefs of modern Samoans’, The Journal of the Polynesian Society, Vol. 80, No. 4 (DECEMBER 1971), pp. 463-479, published by: The Polynesian Society, Stable URL:

Edward Tregear and S. Percy Smith, A Vocabulary and Grammar of the Niue Dialect of the Polynesian Language, Wellington, 1907. (‘Grammar prepared by Rev W G Lawes, the pioneer missionary to the Niue, or Savage, Islanders, which has been added to by the Rev F E Lawes the present missionary’.) See also Tregear’s ‘Niue: Or Savage Island, The Journal of the Pacific Society, Volume 2, No.1, March 1893.

Journal of Commodore Goodenough, R.N., C.B., C.M.G., During his last command as Senior Officer on the Australian Station, 1873-1875, (London: Henry S. King & Co, 1876)

Beatrice Grimshaw, (‘Author of “From Fiji to the Cannibal Islands”‘), In the Strange South Seas, (1907) (discovered thanks to Jane Resture‘s extensive webpages)


T.F.Ryan, ‘Fishing in Transition on Niue‘,   Année 1981 72-73  pp. 193-203

William Churchill, ‘Niue: a reconnaissance‘, Bulletin of the American Geographical Society, Vol 40, 1908.

What is happening to English in the South Pacific?’ – extracted from the work of two linguists from the University of the South Pacific, France Mugler and John Lynch

Nicholas Thomas, Huaga: the art of John Pule, Dunedin, NZ: Otago University PRess, 2010

Robert Williamson Religion and social organization in Central Polynesia, 1937

‘Our Sea of Islands’ by Epeli Hau’ofa, in A New Oceania : Rediscovering our Sea of Islands, co-edited by Hauʻofa, Vijay Naidu and Eric Waddell, 1993

Marshall Sahlins, What ‘Natives’ Think: About Captain Cook, For Example, Chicago, 316 pp, £19.95, July 1995

David Lewis, We, the navigators: The Ancient Art of Landfinding in the Pacific,  University of Hawaii Press, Honolulu, 1972, 1994

Nainoa Thompson, On Wayfinding (Hawaiian voyaging traditions)

Nicholas Thomas, Islanders: The Pacific in the Age of Empire, Yale University Press, 2010

Mystery Islands of South Polynesia

H. Stonehewer Cooper, Coral Lands, 2 vols London, 1880

Jeannette Marie Mageo and Alan Howard, eds, Spirits in Culture, History and Mind, Routledge, 1996

Rod Edmond, Representing the South Pacific – Colonial discourse from Cook to Gauguin, Cambridge University Press, 1997

Mervyn McLean, Music, Lapita, and the Problem of Polynesian Origins, ebook 2014

Brij V Lal, ‘Pacific History Matters‘, Journal de la Société des Océanistes, 125, année 2007-2

M W Cawthorn, Maori, whales and “whaling”: an ongoing relationship, Conservation Advisory Science Notes No. 308, (2000), Department of Conservation, Wellington, NZ.

Vaughan Yarwood, with photographs by Glenn Jowitt, ‘Life on the Rock‘, New Zealand Geography issue 37,  Jan-Mar 1998

William B Churchward, My Consulate in Samoa: A Record of Four Years’ Sojourn in the Navigators Islands, with personal experiences of King Malietoa Luapepa, his country and his men, (London: Bentley and Son, 1887)

Jonathan Lamb, Vanessa Smith, Nicholas Thomas, eds, Exploration & Exchange: a South Seas Anthology, 1680-1900, University of Chicago Press, 2000.

David Chapell, ‘Ahab’s boat’ in Bernard Klein & Gesa Machkenthun, eds, Sea Changes: Historicizing the Ocean, NY, Routledge, 2004

Doug Munro, ‘Who “owns: Pacific History? Reflections on the Insider/Outsider Dichotomy’, The Journal of Pacific History, Vol. 29, No. 2 (Dec., 1994), pp. 232-237

Doug Munro and Brij V. Lal (Ed.), Texts and contexts : Reflections in Pacific Islands historiography (pp. 140-153)  (Honolulu, Hawaii: University of Hawaii Press, 2006)




Missionaries (including indigenous)

John Garrett, Footsteps in the Sea: Christianity in Oceania to World War II, Suva, Fiji ; Geneva, Switzerland : Institute of Pacific Studies, University of the South Pacific in association with World Council of Churches, 1992

Frank  A, W.G.Lawes: The Scholar as Pioneer 

Rev Joseph King (author too of ‘Christianity in Polynesia’), W.G. Lawes of Savage Island and New Guinea1909

Rev D MacDonald [Missionary, New Hebrides ie Vanuatu], The Labour Traffic versus Christianity in the South Sea Islands, Melbourne, 1878

John Williams, A Narrative of Missionary Enterprises in the South Sea Islands
With Remarks Upon the Natural History of the Islands, Origin, Languages, Traditions, and Usages of the Inhabitants, 1837

William Ellis, Polynesian Researches (during a Residence of nearly 8 years in the Society and Sandwich Islands, 1931

Anna Johnston, ‘The Strange Career of William Ellis’, Victorian Studies, Vol. 49, No. 3 (Spring, 2007), pp. 491-501

Anna Johnston, Missionary Writing and Empire, 1800–1860. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2003

Niko Besnier and Margaret Jolly, ‘Afterword: Shape-Shifting Mana: Travels in Space and Time‘, in New Mana: Transformations of a Classic Concept in Pacific Languages and Cultures, eds, Matt Tomlinson, Ty P. Kāwika Tengan, ANU Press, 2016

Doug Munro, Andrew Thornley, eds., The Covenant Makers: Islander Missionaries in the Pacific, Suva : Pacific Theological College, 1997

Sujit Sivasundaram, Nature and the Godly Empire: Science and Evangelican Mission in the Pacific, 1795-1850, Cambridge University Press, 2005

Chris Wingfield, ‘”Scarcely more than a Christian trophy case”? The global collections of the London Missionary Society museum (1814–1910)’, Journal of the History of Collections, Volume 29, Issue 1, 1 March 2017, Pages 109–128 (



Slavery and Migration

H.E.Maude, Slavers in Paradise: The Peruvian Slave Trade in Polynesia, 1862-1864, Stanford University Press,1981

James A. Michener & A. Grove Day, Bully Hayes, South Sea Buccaneer, in Rascals in Paradise, London: Secker & Warburg, 1957

Janelle Blucher, blogpost, 23 June 2014) (from Norfolk Island Museum: Bishop Pattesons’ ‘South Sea Island Labour Traffic’ Memorandum  (NB George Sustins, b. Lowestoft, Suffolk, who was the great grandfather of ‘King’ Bell’s wife (Phoebe Gardiner) was the captain of the original Southern Cross, the Melanesian mission ship largely funded by Charlotte Yonge which brought Patteson to New Zealand in 1855.)

William T Wawn, The South Sea Islanders and the Queensland Labour Trade, 1893

Scott Hamilton, The Stolen Island: Searching for ‘Ata(Bridget Williams Books) and Reading the Maps blog – especially this post on Melanesian indentured workers in New Zealand and this on slave raids on Tonga.

Georges Baudoux (1870-1949), Jean M’Baraï the Trepang Fisherman, translation and critical introduction by Karin Speedy (2015), UTS e-press – see below.

Karin Speedy – guest blog on George Baudoux and blackbirding for The Coastal History Blog (January 4th, 2016)  To quote KS: ‘This transnational New Caledonian blackbirding narrative gives anglophone readers the opportunity to read about a shameful and relatively unknown episode in Australian and Pacific history from an outsider’s (although close neighbour’s) perspective. As is made plain in the story, the transactions that took place between peoples in the frontier spaces and ports of New Caledonia, the New Hebrides and Queensland were not based on any notions of equality. Indeed, rooted in colonial power relations and concerned with monetary gain and exploitation, they were often extremely violent. While most people are aware of the “coolie trade”, the indenture system that replaced the slave trade and involved Indian and Chinese labourers, few people have heard about the Kanaka trade (Pacific labour trade/Pacific slave trade) that saw the displacement, abuse and deaths of many thousands of “blackbirds” across Oceania.’ NB Readers of Liberty’s Fire will, I hope, be interested to know that Georges Baudoux (1870-1949), New Caledonia’s first writer, ‘arrived as a four year old in the French penal colony aboard the Virginie, a convict ship transporting prisoners from the Paris Commune.’

Grant McCall, ‘European Impact on Easter Island: Response, Recruitment and the Polynesian Experience in Peru’, The Journal of Pacific History, Vol. 11, No. 2, Labour Trade [Part 2] (1976), pp. 90-105 Published by: Taylor & Francis, Ltd. Stable URL:

Doug Munro and Brij V. Lal (Ed.), Texts and contexts : Reflections in Pacific Islands historiography (pp. 140-153)  (Honolulu, Hawaii: University of Hawaii Press, 2006)

European pioneers and settlers

Kristen Harman, ‘”Some dozen raupo whares, and a few tents”: remembering raupo houses in colonial New Zealand’, Journal of New Zealand Studies, NS17 (2014), pp 39-57

Charles Hursthouse, New Zealand, or Zealandia, The Britain of the South in 2 vols, London, 1857(‘Emigration is a career which calls up pluck, bottom, energy, enterprise, all the masculine virtues. The feeble-minded, the emasculate, the fastidious, the timid, do not emigrate; they bow their necks to the yoke, ply the distaff, and spin wealth for the great at home. It is the strong and the bold who go forth to subdue the wilderness and conquer new lands.’)

Susanne Williams Milcairns, Native Strangers: Beachcombers, Renegades and Castaways in the South Seas, NZ, Penguin, 2006.

Sidney J Baker, New Zealand Slang: A Dictionary of Colloquialisms (‘The first comprehensive survey yet made of indigenous English speech in this country – from the argot of whaling days to children’s slang in the twentieth century’), Whitcombe and Tombs Ltd, 1940

(‘Our ways are less crowded, our gardens apacious, our horizons vast.  We are people of wide spaces, of keen winds, of turbulent seas. We are of the Pacific, with its blue skies and towering white cumulus clouds, and the earth is not yet tamed beneath our feet… Our bush is greener, vaster, more silent than any English wood; our countryside less intimate; nearly always moutain ranges stand on the edge of our horizons…We are not enclosed by the dun-coloured bricks of English cities, but are breathing fresh air and carrying freedom on our shoulders, away from the smoke-dust and hopeless streets of English slums…From the earliest days, from about 1794, when the first whaling fleets arrived, the conditions of New Zealand have necessitated the finding of new words so that new concepts can be understood between man and man.’)


G.B.Earp Hand-book for intending emigrants to the Southern Settlements of New Zealand, 3rd edition, London: Routledge & Co, 1852 ‘The intention of this little work is to awaken the middle and labouring classes of this country to a sense of their own position with repsect to the future, as regards this country, and, at the same time, to point out to them the way to escape from that future, whilst they have either small capital or strength to labour left.  There is no apparent way whereby to escape from impending evil, but by emigrating.’

H. Stonehewer Cooper, Coral Lands, 1880

Vanessa Smith, Intimate Strangers: Friendship, Exchange and Pacific Encounters, (Cambridge University Press, 2010)

Vanessa Smith, Literary Culture and the Pacific: Nineteenth-Century Textual Encounters, (Cambridge University Press, 2005)

Lamb, J., Smith, V., Thomas, N., Exploration & exchange: a South Seas anthology, 1680-1900, (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2000)


Islands and Nineteenth-century Island Fiction

Island Studies Journal, an open access scholarly journal dedicated to the interdisciplinary study of our ‘world of islands’

Godfrey Baldacchino, ‘Studying Islands: On Whose Terms? Some Epistemological and Methodological Challenges to the Pursuit of Island Studies’, ISJ Vol. 3, No. 1, 2008, pp. 37-56

Rod Edmond and Vanessa Smith, eds. Islands in History and Representation, (Routledge, 2003)

Vanessa Smith, Literary Culture and the Pacific: Nineteenth-Century Textual Encounters, Cambridge University Press, 2005


Harriet Martineau, Dawn Island (1945)

Wilkie Collins, Ioláni; or, Tahíti as It Was, (written 1844, first published 1999) – or read James Kincaid’s NYTimes review for reasons that will become clear when you do.




Eilís Phillips, ‘Dead Men Telling Tales: Maritime Gibbet Lore in Nineteenth-Century Popular Culture, Port Towns and Urban Cultures Blog, 11 August 2015







1 comment »

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

“A mesmerising portrait of a family unravelling” THE TIMES (Best historical fiction in 2018)

“Powerful, intense and beautiful” HISTORICAL NOVEL REVIEW

“This tense, evocative, richly-imagined novel conjures the voices of a strange time and place, and makes them universal” EMMA DARWIN

“Syson brings history alive” THE OBSERVER

Search this site