John Rickard reviews 'Savage or Civilised? Manners in Colonial Australia' by Penny Russell

Savage or Civilised? Manners in Colonial Australia

by Penny Russell

NewSouth, $34.95 pb, 368 pp, 9780868408606

Lacking a titled aristocracy and the leisured class that went with it, Australian colonial society encouraged an egalitarianism of manners. This, however, did not reflect the absence of social stratification: rather, as it has been argued, it was a means of being reconciled to it in a new setting. Nor did it mean, as Penny Russell demonstrates in Savage or Civilised?, that there were not many who either ignored with distaste the egalitarianism of colonial society or sought to negotiate some kind of accommodation between the manners they had brought with them from the old world and the democratic ethos of the new.

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John Rickard

John Rickard

John Rickard is the author of Australia: A Cultural History (2017). In his youth he worked as an actor and singer.

Published in February 2011 no. 328

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