The Tiwi of Melville Island, the Portuguese of Timor, and Slavery

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For over 180 years, it has been reported in academic and popular literature that Portuguese raiders from Timor captured and enslaved people from the Tiwi Islands in north Australia. The experience of slave-raiding is often cited as an explanation for the islanders' fierce hostility to intruders. However, this is despite the lack of any solid evidence to support the slave-raiding claims. Additionally, if Portuguese slave-raiding of the Tiwi Islands began in the sixteenth century or at the very beginning of the seventeenth century, as is often claimed, or implied, then the generally accepted history of the European discovery of Australia is wrong. The origins of these claims, their validity, and alternative readings of the Tiwi Islands' history are all explored in this article.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)5-37
Number of pages33
JournalBijdragen tot de Taal-, Land- en Volkenkunde
Issue number1
Early online date2022
Publication statusPublished - 6 Apr 2022


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