Mutiny on the Bounty: Freedom and Slavery in the Age of the Enlightenment

Free Public Lecture

Mutiny on the Bounty: Freedom and Slavery in the Age of the Enlightenment

Leigh Scott Room, Level 1
Baillieu Library

Booking not required

The 18th century was an age of paradox, summed up best in Samuel Johnson’s astute question concerning the American Revolution: "How is it that we hear the loudest yelps for liberty among the drivers of negroes?" In this talk, Professor Deirdre Coleman will discuss what ensued when the breadfruit of free Tahiti was transported to the slave islands of the British West Indies.

This free public program accompanies Plotting the Island: dreams, discovery and disaster, an exhibition in the Noel Shaw Gallery at the Baillieu Library (Level 1). The exhibition Plotting the island: dreams, discovery and disaster navigates both real and imaginary voyages, seeing the island of Australia as a pivotal destination.

The Indigenous inhabitants had long established profound connectedness and history to this island, yet in the Western mind it was shrouded in mystery and imagined through art and literature. It was the lucrative spice trade and the opportunities for territorial expansion that brought Europeans to the Pacific and onto Australia, sometimes purposefully, other times by fateful accident. Their cartographic developments began to transform the world’s map. The era of exploration encompassed another age, that of the Enlightenment. This in turn gave rise to a great desire to collect; voyages were a course leading to the collection of scientific specimens from natural history and objects of culture. The subsequent and often disastrous shipwrecks, mutinies and encounters between Europeans and Indigenous people had effects which shaped the identities of many islands. The exhibition strives not to be chronological and comprehensive in its exploration of islands, rather to study how they are characterised through the University’s collections.

Professor Deirdre Coleman is Robert Wallace Chair of English at the University of Melbourne.

All Free Public Lectures