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Caius Historian Gives Prothero Lecture

  • 19 June 2019

Dr Sujit Sivasundaram, Fellow and College Lecturer in History, will give this year’s Royal Historical Society Prothero Lecture on Friday 5 July. The Prothero Lecture is an annual lecture of the Royal Historical Society Programme. It is a public lecture to which all Caians are welcome.

In the lecture, Dr Sivasundaram will reconsider a critical moment of globalisation and empire, the age of revolutions at the end of the eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries. He will journey with European voyagers to the Pacific Ocean, but moreover, he will cast Pacific islanders as critical agents in crafting and making our modern world. Pacific islanders recycled material goods, ideas and even adopted European invaders within their ways of thought.

One example is the 1806 wreck of the Port au Prince, an English ship used to raid French and Spanish targets in the Pacific, but which was stripped of its guns, iron and gunpowder by Tongans. “Many things flowed out of this moment where Tongan looting and European looting met each other. One might even see the initiation of a new monarchic line - the inauguration of George I of Tonga - from what came afterwards. This monarchic line, born of the age of revolutions, has lasted to the present,” said Dr Sivasundaram. “It points to the incredible creativity of Pacific islanders.”

In explaining the methods and analytical gains of this approach, Dr Sivasundaram said, “To chart the trajectory from revolution and islander agency on to violence and empire is to appreciate the unsettled paths that gave rise to our modern world. Such a view foregrounds people who inhabited and travelled through the earth’s oceanic frontiers. It is a global history from a specific place in the oceanic south, on the opposite side of the planet to Europe. In this sense, it is a novel view by way of perspective as well as by way of agents of how we came to be where we are today.”



Left: A photo of the memorial to the 1806 wreck of the Port au Prince, taken by Dr Sivasundaram while on research in Tonga.

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