R. H. Mathews and anthropological warfare: On writing the biography of a 'self-contained man'

Aboriginal History Inc.
Publication Type:
Journal Article
Aboriginal History, 2004, 28 (1), pp. 1 - 32
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It is now almost three decades since AP Elkin published in Oceania a three-part article titled `RH Mathews: his contribution to Aboriginal studies.1 Recently I have been pursuing my own research into Mathews, gathering material for a book that Elkin, had he found the time, might well have written: a biographical study of the surveyor-turned anthropologist. To use a term that Mathews once employed for extracting information from informants, I have found it a process of `long & patient hammering.2 Although Mathews anthropological career, which lasted from the early 1890s until his death in 1918, gives him presence in a wealth of documentary records, he remains a difficult quarry for the biographer.
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