Subjects of Benevolence: Concepts of Society and Civilisation in Early Colonial Indigenous Administration
Early British colonization in Australia was characterized by European efforts to 'civilise' the Indigenous inhabitants. Civilisation denoted superiority based on the possession of the trappings of civilized life, property, rights, ordered government, settled laws, and a civil society. In this paper, I want to examine one important, if often overlooked element of this language of civilization in early colonial Australia, specifically, the concept of 'society'. In particular, I want to focus attention on the idea, often expressed in early colonial and government policy, that the British were 'fitting' the Indigenous peoples of Australia for 'society'. In this way, I want to suggest that understanding the history of this central concept in Western social science and political theory requires an acknowledgement of its development within the colonial and imperial context.
Journal of Australian Studies