Alan Frost

In 1970, at the age of twenty-seven, Alan Frost joined the English Department of La Trobe University. His first love had been the study of poetry, for which he earned an MA at the University of Queensland. That led to a PhD at the University of Rochester, where he wrote on ...

... (read more)

Nicholas Thomas’s principal purposes in this study are to show, first, that the peoples of the Pacific were neither incurious about the world beyond their islands, nor lacking in the emotional or imaginative means to apprehend cultures different from their own. Even before the coming of European maritime discoverers, they were accustomed to undertaking lengthy voyages and sometimes migrations from one part of the great ocean to another, practices which they extended when contact with the Europeans gave them the means of doing so. And second, that as a consequence of their travelling and becoming acquainted with other cultures, they altered their outlooks and social and political practices to meet new challenges and take advantage of new opportunities. In justification of these purposes, Thomas stresses the need to get away from older, Eurocentric, historical and ethnographic perspectives; and to understand that the Islanders were people both able and willing to assert themselves and, to some extent at least, to determine their own destinies.

... (read more)

John Hirst is a distinctive figure in Australian intellectual life. As an academic, he has had a distinguished career at La Trobe University in teaching, supervision, and research. He developed new subjects and methodologies with which to teach them. In addition to those concerning Australian history, there was his pioneering subject designed to inform students about Australia’s European cultural heritage, with some of the lectures recently published as The Shortest History of Europe (2009).

... (read more)

Some reviewers like to stamp their own character on a review in its opening sentences. I prefer, however, to share with you some of Alan Frost’s words:

When I was a boy, living in a village set against a beach in Far North Queensland, I was struck by two kinds of trees. Ringing the beach at intervals were great ‘beach-nut’ trees (Calophyllum inophyllum). As early photographs of the beach do not show them, these trees must have been planted by European settlers. In my time, when they were perhaps seventy or eighty years old, they were up to fifty feet high, and they spread fifty feet in diameter … And scattered about the littoral were tall hoop and kauri pines … One behind our house may have been more than one hundred feet tall. It was said that this kauri pine was a beacon for ships at sea.

... (read more)

The British exploration of the Pacific Ocean between 1764, when Byron sailed, and 1780, when Cook’s third circumnavigation concluded, and the colonisation of New South Wales from 1788 onwards, effectively set agendas in discovery and settlement which France and Spain had to emulate if they were to continue as Britain’s imperial rivals.

Spain’s effort to match the British agenda was spectacular, but short-lived. The expedition under the command of Alejandro Malaspina that it sent to explore in the Pacific and to report on the state of the Spanish empire (1789–94) was perhaps the best equipped of all the grand eighteenth-century voyages, but its commander fell victim to political intrigue on his return; and oblivion settled over its results. (Only now are its journals, artwork and collections being fully analysed and published.)

... (read more)