Introduction: Empire of Dissent

  • Valerie Wallace
Part of the Cambridge Imperial and Post-Colonial Studies Series book series (CIPCSS)


This introductory chapter explains that Scottish Presbyterian dissenters have been missing from the historiography on religion and colonialism. It suggests that when dissenters from the Secession churches, Relief Church and Free Church migrated to the settler colonies of Britain’s empire, they exported the disruptive political ideas associated with these churches. This introduction provides an overview of the Scottish politics of dissent. It introduces five Scottish migrants: Thomas Pringle, a poet in Cape Town; Thomas McCulloch, a missionary in Pictou; John Dunmore Lang, a minister in Sydney; William Lyon Mackenzie, a journalist in Toronto; and Samuel McDonald Martin, a journalist in Auckland. The introduction suggests that the values of Presbyterian dissent underpinned the politics of these reformers, who couched their political claims in the ‘covenanting idiom’, a Scottish variant of British birthright rhetoric. This introduction also provides an outline of the book. It concludes by suggesting that through studying the connections between these migrants and the reform campaigns they led, we can advance our understanding of colonial politics and the broader significance of these individuals’ careers.


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© The Author(s) 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  • Valerie Wallace
    • 1
  1. 1.School of History, Philosophy, Political Science and International RelationsVictoria University of WellingtonWellingtonNew Zealand

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