Rev Dr Steve Taylor

Supported by the University of Glasgow Library

Steve Taylor is Director of Angel Wings Ltd, Lead Researcher Te Pae Tawhiti and Senior Lecturer at Flinders University, Australia. His research interests are in cultures and change. He has published widely on the transmission of Christianity across diverse contexts, including nearly fifty published peer-reviewed articles and book chapters. Born and raised in Papua New Guinea, Steve completed his doctorate in practical theology at the University of Otago in 2004, focusing on emerging forms of church. He has been the Principal of Knox Centre for Ministry and Leadership and Uniting College for Leadership and Theology and authored First Expressions: Innovation and the Mission of God (2019), Built for Change: A Practical Theology of Innovation and Collaboration in Leadership (2016), and The Out of Bounds Church? Learning to Create a Community of Faith in a Culture of Change (2005). He is a monthly film reviewer for Touchstone and a regular columnist for Zadok Perspectives. 

Understanding the past demands a contemporary reappraisal of race and justice in the expansion of empires. The history of slavery invites educational institutions to assess their complicity in education, empire and exploitation. Slavery generally tends to be framed in relation to the transatlantic slave trade. However, a unique history of coerced Pacific labour is called “blackbirding.” Pacific peoples were extracted from island communities to build sugar plantations in Australia and Fiji. Recently, scholars have called for a reappraisal of “blackbirding,” the need for new Pacific genealogies and a critical reassessment of the “racial imaginaries” at work in the empire’s expansion.

My research project aims to illuminate the Glaswegian contribution to the modern Protestant missionary enterprise. The archives at the University of Glasgow Library offer a significant resource. Several Special Collections contain pamphlets and sermons that illuminate historic attitudes to other cultures, as students from the University were encouraged into mission activity by Christian student bodies meeting in and around the campus. The University Library Missions Book collection includes descriptions by missionaries who sailed from the ports of Glasgow and wrote for their encounters with “blackbirders” in operation. 

This unique archival material will be located in relation to the growing body of contemporary scholarship attuned to histories of slavery and the economic and educational complicities of British imperialism. My research project aligns with the University of Glasgow’s Historical Slavery Initiative, which seeks to respond to the University’s complicated entanglement with Scottish imperial expansion.

I am thrilled to have been awarded this Research Fellowship and grateful for the opportunity to access what is a unique collection. I look forward to travelling to the University of Glasgow and strengthening academic relationships with colleagues. I am excited by the important work already being done at the University through the Historical Slavery Initiative. I trust my research will contribute to the justice-making required by the Pacific’s particular histories of slavery.