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Harding Distinguished Postgraduate Scholars Programme


Kate Tilson​ 

New Zealand

Faculty of History, Murray Edwards College

PhD thesis: Missionary Print Culture and Medical Knowledge in the Pacific and Britain, 1797-1850

Research interests 
1. Missionary history
2. Pacific history 
3. Print culture and colonial knowledge
4. History of medicine 


My PhD focuses on missionary print culture on medicine in the Pacific and Britain in the first half of the nineteenth-century. I will analyse how the health systems of indigenous peoples (in Tahiti, Rarotonga, Samoa, and New South Wales, Australia) and missionaries from the London Missionary Society interacted upon contact and I will explore the resultant exchange of ideas, recorded in both the missionaries’ unpublished and published records. Placing medicine at the centre of the analysis provides insight into several significant themes of nineteenth-century global history, including humanitarianism, evangelisation and the transmission of colonial propaganda on western knowledge.


Who or what inspired you to pursue your research interests?

I was inspired to pursue my research interests during my time as a student at the University of Otago in New Zealand. At Otago I was surrounded by excellent lecturers and had access to a brilliant archive of missionary writings at the Hocken Library. My honours dissertation on Māori and missionary medical interactions in New Zealand utilised this archive and it left me with a lot of questions about the connectedness of health, religion and colonial legacy. Subsequently working as Professor Tony Ballantyne’s research assistant, I came to recognise the pertinence of print in missionary history in the Pacific.