Transnational networks among European missionaries in colonial Australia

Collecting and sharing the correspondence of our earliest missionaries


At the heart of the written record is language. This project analyses how to better understand the role of language in expressing subjectivity and emotional experience in the writings documenting the missionary experience.

The Transnational Networks Among European Missionaries in Colonial Australia: Building a Digital Repository of Epistolary Correspondence project collects private writings and records them via an online database to understand how missionaries chronicled their experience.

The texts will be analysed for meaning, structure and for the languages in which they are written. This project maps the multilingual networks created by missionaries and the models of language used in letters, diaries and other private correspondence.

The aim is to understand the lived experience of those who participated in the missionary project that saw large numbers of Europeans travel to propose Christianity to indigenous populations in other continents.

We are interested in the perspective of both sides of the encounter, including that of European and indigenous missionaries and evangelists. We are also learning about the scope and functions of friendship networks.

Our overarching goals include:

  • bringing together large amounts of archival material and developing an online automated system for its transcription and storage
  • developing techniques of textual interrogation of the database and semantic and textual analysis
  • analysis of the archival material in light of the history of emotions literature

PhD opportunities

A PhD applicant for the project will be required to develop tools for automatic transcription of manuscript documents and will analyse the language of emotion in the archived documents.

Eligibility criteria

The application process and general UWA PhD entrance requirements can be found on the Future Students website.

Requirements specific to this project:

  • Competence in one or more European language/s is also highly desirable.

Once you have ensured you meet the eligibility criteria and are ready to discuss a proposal, contact research team leader Dr John Kinder to identify a potential supervisor.

Collaborate with us

This project spans researchers across the globe, including Australia, Europe, and the United States. We are keen to expand the range of disciplinary expertise in our team and the range of countries contributing to the database. If you are interested in participating in this project, get in touch.

UWA collaborators

External collaborators

  • Professor Tony Ballantyne, University of Otago, Dunedin
  • Professor Hilary Carey, University of Bristol
  • Dr Emanuele Colombo, DePaul University, Chicago
  • Associate Professor Michele Colombo, Catholic University of Milan
  • Dr Emma Moreton, Coventry University
  • Professor Günter Mühlberger, Innsbruck University
Colonial church

Contact Research Team Leader Dr John Kinder

If you’re interested in getting involved with our project, we’d love your help. We are looking for volunteers to assist with locating documents in archives.