Married to a missionary

Emily Manktelow explores the changing nature of marital and sexual relations between British missionaries and native peoples in the British empire during the 18th and 19th centuries...

A London Missionary Society (LMS) mission in Papua New Guinea, c1920s. (Photo by Chronicle/Alamy Stock Photo)

This article was first published in the September 2011 issue of BBC History Magazine

On 28 November 1799 Reverend Thomas Lewis, ordained minister and evangelical missionary in the Pacific, was found dead by his missionary colleagues in the home he shared with his Tahitian wife. Two of his missionary brethren came to see the body before the surgeon was called and began a thorough medical examination. The first conclusion of suicide – whereby Lewis had “dash[ed] himself against the stones” on the pavement outside his house – was rejected in favour of an hypothesis that fitted more neatly with the missionaries’ view of indigenous culture: murder.

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