Article of the month: August
Seventh-day Adventist church in Adamstown, Pitcairn Island (photo: Pitcairn Island Study Center)
Once Fletcher Christian and his companions from Bounty began their occupation of Pitcairn religion seemed to play only a small and insignificant role in their lives. But, again, unfortunately, little is recorded for us about the first two decades of Pitcairn life after the occupation by the mutineers. It was not until the rather strange and marvelous life change that came to John Adams that religion seems to have become a significant part of Pitcairn life. Once he had decided that religion held the promise of a better life for the little colony on the island, Adams lost no time in implementing what we would call strict religious practice.
Sir Charles Lucas, editor of The Pitcairn Island Register Book, describes the coming of religion to John Adams' life well in his introduction to the book. "Many notable cases of religious conversion have been recorded in the history of Christianity," writes Sir Lucas, "but it would be difficult to find an exact parallel to that of John Adams."
According to the Reverend Thomas Boyles Murray, John Adams observed the rules of the Church of England; always had morning and evening prayers; and taught the children the Collects, the Catechism, and other portions of the Prayer-book. He was particular in hearing the children say the Lord's Prayer and the Apostles' Creed. And, it seems Adams was a popular religious teacher, too. Murray writes that Adam's youthful pupils took such delight in his religious instructions that on one occasion, on his offering to two of the lads--Arthur Quintal and Robert Young – some compensation for their labor in preparing ground for planting yams, they proposed that instead of his giving them some gunpowder as a present, that he should teach them some extra lessons from the Bible – a request with which he joyfully complied, says Murray.
Adams early religious background was part and parcel of his work-house upbringing in England where he would have undoubtedly been exposed to some of the rites and ceremonies of the Church of England. Relying on these childhood memories, it is understandable that at times his recollection or understanding faltered, or that he tended to extremes in biblical exegesis. The church's injunction to fast on Ash Wednesday and Good Friday was transmuted by Adams on Pitcairn into a prescription of weekly Wednesday and weekly Friday fasts – much to the discomfort of his flock. Only after the arrival of John Buffett in 1823 was Adams "set straight" on this point about the fasts, but in spite of this he still continued the Friday fasts.
Adams' particular construction on the prohibited degrees in marriage, might well have saved the community from extinction. The table of kindred and affinity in the Book of Common Prayer that spoke to this matter was thankfully often ignored. Nevertheless, certain Levitical laws, such as those requiring abstention from unclean birds, were observed.
In these more permissive views of his about marriage between "relatives" to achieve what Adams considered good purpose, he may have inadvertently set the stage for practices on Pitcairn, the unfortunate result of which the Island has even in recent years experienced: in particular sex with very young girls which is considered sexual abuse in both United Kingdom and New Zealand. The process with Pitcairn men including mayor Steve Christian became world famous in 2004; six out of seven defendants were found guilty and convicted by the court in New Zealand.
Published: May 5, 2018
In 1191 King Richard the Lioheart seized the Island of Cyprus from Greek governor, de facto independent ruler, Isaac Comnenus. Richard soon realized his inability to govern the island as part of his kingdom in England and France and made the strategic decision to sell the island to the Knights Templar for 100,000 gold bezants. It was a wise decision which financially helped Richard a great deal, enabled him to fully focus on struggle to regain the Holy Land and ensured that the island was left in hands of loyal Christians always prepared to help defending the Holy Land. It seemed like a perfect solution.
Published: May 1, 2018
When a relief party sent from England arrived at the Roanoke Colony on the East coast of the United States in 1590, they found the settlement neatly dismantled, and not a soul to be found. Some 115 men, women, and children had simply disappeared. The only clue was the name of a nearby island, Croatoan, carved into the trunk of a tree. And thus was launched one of history's great mysteries: The Lost Colony of Roanoke.
Published: April 21, 2018
At its fullest extent, the Roman Empire stretched from around modern-day Aswan, Egypt at its southernmost point to Great Britain in the north but the influence of the Roman Empire went far beyond even the borders of its provinces as a result of commerce and population movements. Contrary to popular belief which holds that the Sahara Desert was an impossible obstacle to trade prior to the Middle Ages, the Romans had a robust and dynamic network of connections to Sudanic and Sub-Saharan Africa. Slaves, gold, foodstuffs, and spices were transported from complex urban settlements on the Niger river, onwards to oasis cities in the Sahara, before finally reaching Rome’s bustling ports on the coast of North Africa. Going in the opposite direction, gemstones, textiles, and coins reached cities along the fertile banks of the Middle Niger.
Published: April 20, 2018
After the establishment of the Kingdom of Jerusalem following the First Crusade, pilgrims flooded to the Holy Land, but the situation was far from stable; many coast cities were under the kontrol of Arab emirs and the hinterland was full of bedouins. the secular authorities were unable to guarantee the safety of pilgrims who ventured out upon the dangerous roads from Jerusalem to other pilgrimage sites such as Jericho and Nazareth. In 1115 Hugues de Payens, a Burgundian knight, and Sir Godfrey de St. Adhemar, a Flemish knight, decided to join forces and form a band of sworn brothers dedicated to protecting pilgrims. They soon recruited seven other knights.
Published: April 15, 2018
This paper is another attempt to elucidate how the Graeco-Romans had extended trade links to the coast of East Africa and probably to the interior of East Africa. This undertaking is probably the first of its kind to collate a variety of archaeological evidence recently recovered from the coast and islands of Tanzania with existing Graeco-Roman documents.