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An Introduction to Polynesian Anthropology

The Polynesian Society

The Polynesian Society

The Polynesian Society was founded in New Zealand in 1892 by a small group of enthusiasts led by S. Percy Smith. The object of the society was "to promote the study of the Anthropology, Ethnology, Philology, History, and Antiquities of the Polynesian race by the publication of an official journal to be called 'The Journal of the Polynesian Society,' and by the collection of books, manuscripts, photographs, relics, and other illustrations of the history of the Polynesian race." In order to extend its scope of interest to include neighboring cultures which might throw light on the study of the Polynesian race, the society adopted the following curious definition: "The term 'Polynesia' is intended to include Australasia, New Zealand, Melanesia, Micronesia, and Malaysia, as well as Polynesia proper." The annual subscription was placed at one guinea and life membership at ten pounds. These have recently been raised to 25 shillings and 15 pounds respectively.

When the proposition was put forward to form the Society, many people held that it was too late to save anything of importance in Polynesian culture. In spite of this pessimistic forecast, the society has continued to publish its quarterly journal throughout the years, and the year 1945 sees the unbroken chain of 54 annual volumes. Objections have been made at times that the journal has contained too much Maori material and not enough general Polynesian matter. This has been due to the difficulty of procuring correspondents in the various parts of Polynesia with the knowledge and the will to write on local ethnology. In spite of difficulties, the journal has recorded a vast amount of information concerning Polynesia, and no library which professes to be up-to-date on Pacific material is complete without a full set of journals of the Polynesian Society.

In addition to the journal, the society has published 21 volumes of memoirs and four reprints. Most of the memoirs are composed of long papers page 41which previously ran through several copies of the journal, and their publication as single volumes has been of great convenience to members of the society as well as to purchasing non-members.