© 2018

Robert Louis Stevenson’s Pacific Impressions

Photography and Travel Writing, 1888–1894

  • Looks at Stevenson's unique position of viewing vast upheaval in the Pacific islands, as he and his family witnessed political upheaval, cultural hybridization and decline, and Islander resistance to the 'Scramble for the Pacific' and documented these events through writing and photography

  • Situates Stevenson's writing and photography within the history of colonial interactions between Europeans and Islanders

  • Draws on a range of sources including previously unpublished photographs, Stevenson's personal travel diary, and his private correspondence


Table of contents

  1. Front Matter
    Pages i-xviii
  2. Carla Manfredi
    Pages 221-224
  3. Back Matter
    Pages 225-256

About this book


This book tackles photography’s role during Robert Louis Stevenson’s travels throughout the Pacific Island region and is the first study of his family’s previously unpublished photographs. Cutting across disciplinary boundaries, the book integrates photographs with letters, non-fiction, and poetry, and includes much unpublished material. The original readings of photographs and non-fiction highlight Stevenson’s engagement with colonial ideology and reality and advance new arguments about Victorian travel, settlement, and colonialisms in the Pacific. Like the Stevensons, the book moves from the Marquesas to the atolls of the Gilbert Islands in Micronesia; from the Kingdom of Hawai‘i’s political ambitions to Samoan plantations and the Stevensons’ settlement at Vailima. Central to this study is the notion that Pacific history and Pacific Island cultures matter to the interpretation of Stevenson's work, and a rigorous historical and cultural contextualization ensures that local details structure literary and photographic interpretation. The book’s historical grounding is key to its insightful conclusions regarding travel, settlement, photography, and colonialism.


Robert Louis Stevenson Travel writing Travel photography Pacific photography Pacific culture Nineteenth century travel

Authors and affiliations

  1. 1.University of WinnipegWinnipeg, MBCanada

About the authors

Carla Manfredi's research is on Victorian literature, photography, and the history of colonialism in the Pacific Islands. She has published several articles on Stevenson’s Pacific oeuvre.

Bibliographic information


“Pacific Impressions offers a comprehensive and nuanced reading of Stevenson’s experience and artistic endeavors in the Pacific Islands. Stevenson scholars will find a wealth of compelling material, both biographical and analytical. Manfredi also offers a model for Victorian studies of empire, paying just as close attention to local and Indigenous people and histories as she does to British perspectives.” (Chris Thomas, Victorian Studies, Vol. 63 (1), 2020)

“Stevenson scholars as well as those broadly interested in the study of late 19th-century colonialism in the Pacific will benefit from the materials and insights in this volume.” (L.M. Ratnapalan, The Journal of Pacific History, Vol. 55 (1), 2020)