Gold Seeking: Victoria and California in the 1850's
Allen & Unwin, $29.95 pb, 302 pp
The first virtue of this study is to remind us of the dramatic, potentially cataclysmic, quality of the mid-nineteenth century gold rushes to California in the late 1840s and to south-east Australia soon afterwards. That was prime among the several characteristics the two experiences had in common. At few other points is there so close affinity in the histories of Australia and the USA. The subject is altogether appropriate for one, like David Goodman, who has engaged in research in both countries, and who teaches their comparative history. The result is a most satisfying monograph. While the heavier incidence is on the Australian side, this is one of the few examples in the Australian repertoire of effective comparative work. One of few others in that list – Andrew Markus’s Fear and Hatred – also probes the goldfield, experience, describing how the British master-race treated the Chinese in either case. Goodman’ s aim is much more ambitious – to reveal basic socio-political responses to the cataclysm of gold.