Science, Religion, and Drought: Rainmaking Experiments and Prayers in North Otago, 1889–1911

  • James Beattie
Part of the Palgrave Studies in the History of Science and Technology book series (PSHST)


The droughts that withered crops, killed cattle, and forced many farmers out of business in North Otago, New Zealand, in 1889–91, 1906–7, and 1909–11 underline the existence of contested interpretations of natural causation in that region. Examining settler rainmaking and prayers-for-rain complicates historical interpretations about religion and rationalism, secularism and science, and colonization and climate. This chapter argues for the need for historians to bring research on religious and scientific interpretations of natural causation beyond the European early modern period and into settler societies of the nineteenth and twentieth centuries.1 It also sheds light on the fascinating process by which climate was imbricated in settler religious and scientific debates, and specifically how meteorologists used criticism of rain-making experiments to strengthen claims of professional legitimacy.


Natural Causation Monthly Weather Review Protestant Church Historical Interpretation Loving Kindness 
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© James Beattie, Emily O’Gorman, and Matthew Henry 2014

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  • James Beattie

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