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