Prelude to Empire is more than a biography. It tells the story of William Pritchard, who was born in Tahiti of missionary parents in 1829, who was given extraordinary power by Fijian chiefs, who changed Fijian history, and who was tried and dismissed by a British government in a gross miscarriage of justice. Drawing extensively on letters, memoranda and memoirs written by those involved, it also paints a picture of an extraordinary time when the people of Polynesia and the West were getting used to dealing with each other but when most of Polynesia remained self-governing. The region was in a fascinating state of flux in which political outcomes remained uncertain, populations declined quite dramatically, introduced technology radically affected the way wars were fought, and a new religion was gradually embraced. Chiefs and foreigners used each other to their own advantage, but relations were not scarred by the rigidities and attitudes of the later colonial period. William Pritchard’s first wife was Samoan, and her identity is revealed in this book, as is the previously untold story of his relations with missionaries, chiefs, and officials in London, some of whom conspired to bring him down. Pritchard’s adventurous life had more than its share of travails and sadness, but his life in Tahiti, Samoa and Fiji tells us much about an extraordinary period of Pacific history.
- Preface Hermann N. Mückler
- Part One: Tahiti – A Childhood in the South Pacific
- Part Two: Samoa – Coming of Age and Marriage
- Part Three: Fiji – An Offer of Cession
- Part Four: Fiji – The Smythe Commission
- Part Five: Fiji – The Trial
- Part Six: Epilogue – England and Mexico
Andrew Robson was born in London. After receiving his B.A. degree from Nottingham University, he went to (Western) Samoa, where he taught at Salafai High School (now Vaipouli College) on Savai’i on a two-year contract under the auspices of the Ministry of Overseas Development. After a year at the University of London, where he received a PGCE from the School of Education, he received a second two-year contract, this time sponsored by the Association of Commonwealth Universities, to teach and develop instructional materials at the University of the South Pacific in Fiji and then to be in charge of the USP Extension Services Centre in Honiara, Solomon Islands. Following this experience, he won a scholarship to The Australian National University, Canberra, where he received his Ph.D. for a study that tested the received wisdom on education and international development issues in Western Samoa, American Samoa and Kiribati. He has also taught in England, China, and several regions in the United States. He is the author of Thinking Globally: Reading and Writing Across the Curriculum (McGraw-Hill, 1997) and is now working on the lives of selected missionaries in the nineteenth century South Pacific. He is currently Associate Dean and Professor of English in the College of Letters and Science at the University of Wisconsin Oshkosh. He is married with two children.
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