The Paper War: Morality, Print Culture and Power in Colonial New South Wales

The Paper War: Morality, Print Culture and Power in Colonial New South Wales

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Anna Johnston


A web of intrigue, corruption, slander, whistleblowing and backstabbing, The Paper War is an eye-opener to colonial Australia.

‘A missionary arrested! A London Missionary arrested!! A four hundred pounds bill, drawn upon the London Missionary Society, returned dishonoured…’ – Sydney Gazette, 5/3/1828.

In February 1832, Reverend Lancelot Threlkeld was named as one of the ‘perpetual blisters’ that the London Missionary Society seemed ‘destined to carry’. He had travelled to New South Wales to set up the Lake Macquarie mission – it was here that controversies, tempers and debates abounded, resulting in a very public ‘paper war’.

This engaging and intelligent book delves into the diverse and voluminous body of texts produced by and about Threlkeld from 1825–41. It identifies an influential network of British Empire men who were as crucial to the humanitarian debate as they were to the destruction of Threlkeld’s mission.


Shortlisted – 2012 Australian Historical Association Kay Daniels Award

Praise for The Paper War:

The Paper War is an important book…in its bold interdisciplinarity and its magnificent span. Johnston’s insistence on looking at an entire, connected archive, her careful examination of these diverse texts within their myriad contexts, and her recreation of this forgotten world, make it a valuable and welcome contribution to our understanding of colonial New South Wales, missionaries, and empire.



This is not only a study of one of the most important and paradoxical moments in the development of colonial history, but also a meditation on…the nature of history itself.

Book details
FORMAT: Paperback
EXTENT: 304 pages
SIZE: 235 x 155 mm
ISBN: 9781921401541
CATEGORY: Anna JohnstonUWAP Scholarly,