A 10-volume work comprising more than 1,000 letters from Marist missionaries in Oceania to their founder in France has been launched.
Letters received from Oceania 1836–1854 comprise observations and anecdotes of the French missionaries’ experiences as they journeyed and worked setting up missions in Micronesia, Melanesia and Polynesia.
There is a substantial contribution from Bishop Pompallier and his companions about their experiences with Maori as they lived and worked among them in New Zealand.
The work was collated and edited by Marist Father Charles Girard and published by the Society of Mary with support from the French embassy.
Auckland University Professor of History, Hugh Laracy, said historians regarded this major publication as an invaluable historical source which is ‘truly the greatest contribution made in the broad field of Pacific history since the publication of Beaglehole’s Journals of Captain Cook’.
The launch on April 16 preceded a day-long symposium the following day at Victoria University.
Historians, linguists and French scholars from around the Pacific attended along with embassy personel, church leaders and politicians.
The work is published in French with an anthology of water colour illustrations from the period. An English translation is expected later this year.