Taming the Territory: Walter Baldwin Spencer and Elsie Masson

Research output: Chapter in Book/Conference paperChapterpeer-review


The British Association for the Advancement of Science (BAAS) Australia Meeting of 1914 was an important means of providing first-hand experience of Australia and its society, and its scientific significance, to an international network of prominent scientists and an eager public. A cross between an academic conference and a field expedition, it brought together people, places, lectures and ideas, and academic ‘products’ such as published books and papers, in a complex multi-sited event. In the meeting’s unprecedented focus on Australian Aboriginal culture, it provided first-hand field experiences shaped by Walter Baldwin Spencer’s substantial and well-illustrated Handbook chapter. In this paper I explore the significance of the BAAS Australia Meeting of 1914 in terms of Spencer's leadership and the role of his work in governance especially of the Indigenous people of the Northern Territory, where Spencer had been a ‘Special Commissioner for the Aboriginals’ since 1911. The dissemination of Spencer’s professional views about Aboriginal people into the popular domain has not been examined. Here I focus on An Untamed Territory, a popular travelogue written by Elsie Masson, and its links to Spencer’s work.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationA Trip to the Dominions
Subtitle of host publicationThe Scientific Event That Changed Australia
EditorsLynette Russell
PublisherMonash University Publishing
Number of pages27
ISBN (Print)9781922464002
Publication statusPublished - 1 Feb 2021


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