The Contest for Aboriginal Souls

The Contest for Aboriginal Souls

European missionary agendas in Australia

Authored by: Regina Ganter

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This book covers the missionary activity in Australia conducted by non-English speaking missionaries from Catholic and Protestant mission societies from its beginnings to the end of the mission era. It looks through the eyes of the missionaries and their helpers, as well as incorporating Indigenous perspectives and offering a balanced assessment of missionary endeavour in Australia, attuned to the controversies that surround mission history. It means neither to condemn nor praise, but rather to understand the various responses of Indigenous communities, the intentions of missionaries, the agendas of the mission societies and the many tensions besetting the mission endeavour. It explores a common commitment to the supernatural and the role of intermediaries like local diplomats and evangelists from the Pacific Islands and Philippines, and emphasises the strong role played by non-English speakers in the transcultural Australian mission effort.

This book is a companion to the website German Missionaries in Australia – A web-directory of intercultural encounters. The web-directory provides detailed accounts of Australian missions staffed with German speakers. The book reads laterally across the different missions and produces a completely different type of knowledge about missions. The book and its accompanying website are based on a decade of research ranging across mission archives with foreign-language sources that have not previously been accessed for a historiography of Australian missions.

‘A remarkable intellectual achievement, compelling reading.’
— Dr Niel Gunson

‘The range of knowledge on display here is very impressive indeed.’
— Professor Peter Monteath


ISBN (print):
ISBN (online):
Publication date:
May 2018
ANU Press
Aboriginal History Monographs
Aboriginal History
Arts & Humanities: History, Philosophy & Religion; Social Sciences: Anthropology, Indigenous Studies

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The book is outstanding not only because it covers so much time and space, and not only because it uses sources that few historians can or will use. On top of all this, Ganter has written the best kind of history – that is, a history that makes you think about the limitations of your own standpoint as an historian.
—Tim Rowse, Aboriginal History Journal, Vol 42, 2018
The full review can been read on the ANU Press website

Regina Ganter’s new book … is a welcome addition to the history of Christian missions in Australia … [The author] brings interesting new questions about faith, culture and tradition to bare on the history of missions.
—Laura Rademaker, Lucas: An Evangelical History Review, Vol 2(12), 2018

Regina Ganter has provided a monumental piece of research that will be useful for anyone interested in further exploring the world of the Aboriginal missions and their impact on the faith of Indigenous believers today.
—Brain Lucas, Journal of the Australian Catholic Historical Society, Vol 39, 2018

This book is no apolo­gist for the missionary endeavour but a thoroughly researched and balanced assessment of the many complexities in these varied relationships over the long mission era. This book will appeal to a general readership that wants to learn more about this important aspect of contact history and gain some understanding of contemporary Aboriginal soci­eties. It is also an excellent resource and provides a wealth of information for student and academic research into the many aspects of Aboriginal experi­ences with missions and missionaries.
—Carol Pybus, Australian Aboriginal Studies, Issue 2, 2019

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