"A Strange Dice-Box of a World": The Trans-Colonial Careers of Henry Samuel Chapman

Saturday, January 9, 2010: 2:50 PM
Marina Ballroom Salon F (Marriott)
Michael Mitchie , York University, Toronto, ON, Canada
David Lambert and Alan Lester have identified six key themes, which emerge out of their collection of “life geographies” of transcolonial subjects. These themes indicate ways in which subjects interact with colonial sites and networks. Such interactions include the introduction of “certain modes of gendered, raced and classed thought to new contexts”; or the “formulation and reformulation of identities.” Lambert and Lester also suggest that subjects can carry other places with them and thereby emphasize “the essential sameness of colonial situations.” In this paper I use the transcolonial career of Henry Samuel Chapman to explore this last theme. Chapman’s trajectory spanned forty years from the 1830s to the 1870s, and he found himself in quite different roles in different sites. Nonetheless, despite chance and coincidence turning his path this way and that, he steadfastly maintained a commitment to the reform politics he adopted as a young man. Chapman therefore negotiated interlocking and at times conflicting networks: a vocation as a Radical reformer in 1830s Britain and Canada; advocate of commercial settler migration to New Zealand; and a career in law, leading to Supreme Court judge in New Zealand, colonial secretary in Van Dieman’s Land and attorney general in Victoria. He felt that the contexts in which he pursued these aims displayed a significant degree of similarity as part of the “Angloworld”. But this was not always the case, as the work of J.G.A. Pocock reminds us. Pocock’s “oceanic” and “archipelagic” perspective attempts to explain the differences that emerged between the networks connecting the southern neo-Britains and the Atlantic British world. Chapman thus personally experienced the emergence of British worlds across the Atlantic and into the Pacific, and was forced to acknowledge that the United Kingdom’s national interest did not correspond with the interests of the trans-Atlantic and southern dominions.