The Journalist in the rectory: Angican clergyman and Australian intellectual life, 1788-1850

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In the popular historical imagination, colonial Anglican clergymen have tended to be remembered morefor their flogging than for their writing. The Anglican clergy's contribution to public life has been assessedmainly in relation to their preaching to convicts and their sectarian battles over education. Yet severalAnglican clergymen were columnists, editors or founders of major newspapers and literary journals before1850, a contribution to intellectual life which has been obscured in part because many clergymen wroteanonymously or under noms de plume to avoid libel suits. Two issues to which clergyman-journalists madeespecially important contributions were the understanding of Australian Aborigines during a period of increasingconflict, both on the frontier and in intellectual enquiry, and public discussion of the scientificdiscovery and exploration of Australia. Their writings, I argue, reveal the ways in which they sought toframe intellectual debate on key concerns in terms of a distinctly Christian and Enlightenment-inflectedvision of the social and moral order. At the same time, their journalism sheds light on both the intellectualunderpinnings of public debate and a tension in clerical thought between humanitarian interest in Aboriginalpeoples and a desire for colonial expansion and progress. The clergy's attempts to refine the coloniallife of the mind also reveal them at the heart of a nascent national literary culture, rather than as merelyproponents of a nostalgic 'literature of exile'. In turn, their journalism suggests a more influential role inpublic life than has generally been allowed.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1-28
Number of pages28
JournalHistory Australia
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 2010


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