Food for the Flames: Idols and Missionaries in Central Polynesia


Twenty-five years after Captain Cook, the London Missionary Society sent its first representatives to the South Seas. Their goal was to eradicate heathenism and idolatry, but unwittingly, they became agents for the preservation of Polynesian culture through their diligent recording of language and religious practices. They even preserved a number of religious artifacts, which they sent back to England for exhibition in the Mission Museum in London.
This book focuses on these artifacts, the idols that avoided the flames. With the scientist’s belief in letting the evidence speak for itself, the author, a biochemist, has mined a wide range of primary sources to bring together a wealth of new information on a generally unpopular subject, the missionary endeavour. Eighty five colour plates illustrate missionary subjects, Polynesian ‘temples’, and numerous idols. The majority of this material is published here for the first time.

  • By David Shaw King, foreword by David Attenborough

    256 pages, hardback

    280 x 216 mm, 300 colour illustrations
    ISBN: 978 1 907372 16 2

© 2017 by Paul Holberton publishing