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The Road to Botany Bay

The Road to Botany Bay: An Exploration of Landscape and History

Copyright Date: 1987
Edition: NED - New edition
Pages: 416
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  • Book Info
    The Road to Botany Bay
    Book Description:

    The Road to Botany Bay, first published in 1987 and considered a classic in the field of cultural and historical geography, examines the poetic constitution of colonial society. A powerfully written account of the ways in which language, history, and geography influenced the territorial theater of nineteenth-century imperialism, the book is also a call to think, write, and live differently.

    eISBN: 978-0-8166-7375-9
    Subjects: Geography

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. List of Illustrations
    (pp. ix-x)
  4. Acknowledgements
    (pp. xi-xii)
  5. Introduction: A Cake of Portable Soup
    (pp. xiii-xxviii)

    No sign of life on the shore this morning. From the bridge the glass picks out nothing. No wordless mime of figures crouched on their haunches; no Indians, more unaccountably still, pursue their way

    ... in all appearance intirely unmov’d by the neighbourhood of so remarkable an object as a ship must necessarily be to people who have never seen one.¹

    But otherwise the physical conditions have scarcely altered. The shape of bay Cook surveyed, the tides, depths and weathers persist. To be sure: where cockatoos exploded out of the treetops, glittering across the bay, reflections of white hulls bob...

  6. 1 An Outline of Names
    (pp. 1-33)

    Casting a jaundiced eye over burgeoning preparations for Australia’s bi-centenary, a weekend columnist of the Melbourne newspaperThe Agereported not so long ago a plan to replace all Cook’s Australian place names with others more congenial to ordinary Australians. It is a measure of Cook’s ambiguous role in Australian history that one was not at all sure whether or not the writer was serious. In the nearly two hundred years since Arthur Phillip, commander of the First Fleet and first governor of the colony of New South Wales, found Cook’s description of Botany Bay so inaccurate he had to...

  7. 2 An Airy Barrier
    (pp. 34-68)

    Almost the greatest barrier to Australia’s spatial history is the date 1788. On the one side, anterior to and beyond the limits of Australian ‘history’, lies a hazy geo-historical tradition of surmise, a blank sea scored at intervals down the centuries by the prows of dug-outs, out-riggers and, latterly, three-masters; it is a ‘thick horizon’, a rewarding site of myth and speculation. But it lacks substance; cause and effect do not converge in its events, but spread out behind like the wake. After 1788, all is solid. Even the weather seems arrested. In alighting at Botany Bay, Phillip steps out...

  8. 3 The Charm of Novelty
    (pp. 69-98)

    The ambition to relate unrelated things, to bring distant things close, is, quite literally, the scope of Cook’s or Mitchell’s names; and it defines equally well the purpose of their journals as a whole. Explorers who wrote up their journeys aimed to bring the country before their readers’ eyes. The logic they used to discover the country did not derive primarily from the realm of contemporary geographical hypothesis or even from the economic incentives offered by governments or squatters: it originated in the logic of travelling itself, in the continuity of the journal, which, kept day after day, left no...

  9. 4 Triangles of Life
    (pp. 99-135)

    Sturt and Leichhardt may have been good biographers of the journey, but when it came tosurveyingthe country they passed through, their journals were less satisfactory. Equipment failures aside, comparison with journals kept by other expedition members suggests that their estimates of latitude and longitude (where they are given) sometimes seem based on quite inadequate observations. There are discrepancies between the published and unpublished data. Sometimes curious lacunae appear in the journals - days go missing. Another explorer, Giles, candidly admits to losing track of time. Estimates of distance are impressionistic and, in many instances, insufficient angles seem to...

  10. [Illustrations]
    (pp. None)
  11. 5 Debatable Land
    (pp. 136-171)

    East of Melbourne and north of Westernport Bay, there is an area that early maps showing aboriginal tribal divisions describe as ‘Debatable Land’. It was land that no one laid claim to, or it was land whose ownership was disputed. Either way, it was land that had not been settled. Whether the Aborigines saw it in this light is extremely doubtful: the phrase ‘Debatable Land’ refers not so much to aboriginal beliefs, as to certain assumptionsof their white interrogators. Implicit in the question, to whom does this land belong, are territorial notions possibly incomprehensible to those questioned. To debate the...

  12. 6 A Thorny Passage
    (pp. 172-201)

    Going and coming back are by no means the same thing. The mileage may be the same and, to judge from the map, the route identical. But, to the traveller on the road, the difference is obvious. Retracing his steps, he now faces the country which, on the outward journey, was always behind him. Instead of spreading out, it converges. In this sense, he once again enters a new country. But he does not experience the charm of its novelty as he would were he travelling on. His attitude towards it is different. Retreating, he is able to go forward...

  13. 7 Elysiums for Gentlemen
    (pp. 202-229)

    One result of Flinders’s Spencer Gulf survey was that he became a founding father. A little over thirty years after his passage Edward Wakefield formed in London the South Australian Land Company. Its object was to initiate

    a grand experiment in the art of colonization and for the formation of a community among which industry would be wholly unfettered either by restrictions on trade, by monopolies or by taxation.¹

    The experiment was clearly utilitarian in inspiration and, as the historian Douglas Pike has shown, Jeremy Bentham was personally involved in its planning.² One of its curious features was that the...

  14. 8 A More Pleasing Prospect
    (pp. 230-260)

    About the time Cook returned from hisEndeavourvoyage, a poet or poetaster from my home town wrote a poem called ‘Faringdon Hill’. From its modest heights, Henry James Pye, local squire and, later, Poet Laureate, surveyed the ‘various objects scatter’d round’ which ‘charm on every side the curious eye’:

    Here lofty mountains lift their azure heads;

    There it’s green lap the grassy meadow spreads;

    Enclosures here the sylvan scene divide;

    There plains extended spread their harvests wide;

    Here oaks, their mossy limbs wide stretching meet

    And form impervious thickets at our feet;

    Through aromatic heaps of ripening hay,


  15. [Illustrations]
    (pp. None)
  16. 9 Intimate Charm
    (pp. 261-292)

    The candle flame, the light at the window, the glow of an inviting interior: these are not only the memorable images of home in European fiction. They were, in nineteenth-century Australia, visions representing familiar spatial experiences. Both the traveller and the settler recognized in them the essence of what they meant by homecoming. When the Reverend J.R. Wollaston returned to Albany after one of his long pastoral circuits in the 1840s, he recorded his arrival in these terms:

    Saw light at parlour window - sung out - ‘Halloa! How are ye! All right?’ Immediately saw two female figures flitting and...

  17. 10 The Road to Botany Bay
    (pp. 293-319)

    The place in which a pioneer like Caleb Burchett lived was nottherein advance of him. His living space was the offspring of his intent to settle. His ability to interpret symbolically the language of longitude and latitude enabled him by ‘looking at the survey map’ to select a piece of land. But this limited blankness was still a potential place. It was not possessed at once simply by thinking of it. The subject of hearsay, rumour and doubt, it harboured a multitude of possibilities. To begin with, it was dark with horizons. It was uncleared, unnamed: as a...

  18. 11 A Wandering State
    (pp. 320-352)

    The road to Botany Bay leads back not only to the world of the convicts but also to Australia’s earlier inhabitants, the Aborigines. It does this quite literally in the sense that, if the escaping convicts did take a ‘road’ of any description, it must have been an aboriginal track. Botany Bay was apparently an aboriginal meeting place — in addition to a ‘village’ on the north-west arm of the bay, inhabited by perhaps sixty people,¹ Tench records a party of ‘more than three hundred persons, two hundred and twelve of whom were men’, encountered by Phillip at the head of...

  19. Notes
    (pp. 353-376)
  20. Index
    (pp. 377-384)
  21. Back Matter
    (pp. 385-385)