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Masculinity, 'race', and family in the colonies: protecting Aborigines in the early nineteenth century

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Much of British imperial society in the early nineteenth century was characterised by a reformulated sensibility of manliness and family. Integral to this sensibility was the notion of men's responsibility for dependants. However, the story of Charles Wightman Sievwright, appointed as Assistant Protector of Aborigines in colonial New South Wales, serves to demonstrate that a man's duty of care for very different, racialised kinds of dependants could be emphasised in conflicting ways by British settlers on the one side and by humanitarians on the other, under conditions of colonial expansion. Sievwright's story also encourages more explicit attention to both the tensions and the mutual intrusions between men's public and private roles within colonial society. Sievwright's own efforts as an active, humanitarian man in the political life of the New South Wales frontier were scandalously undermined by his failure to perform the role expected of him in his domestic, familial relations.
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Keywords: 'race'; Britishness; colonialism; humanitarianism; masculinity

Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: University of Sussex, Brighton, UK

Publication date: February 1, 2009

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