John Rickard reviews '1835: The Founding of Melbourne and the Conquest of Australia' by James Boyce

1835: The Founding of Melbourne and the Conquest of Australia

by James Boyce

Black Inc., $44.95 hb, 257 pp, 9781863954754

The title of this book might, to an innocent observer, suggest a triumphalist history, an impression that could be reinforced by the preface, which argues that the setting up of a squatters’ camp on the banks of the Yarra in 1835 ‘had a significance far beyond the baptism of a great city’, and concludes with the remarkable declaration that ‘in this place, at this time, “Australia” was born’. More on this attention-grabber later, but James Boyce is in fact questioning the whole process whereby the Port Phillip District was founded and the dramatic expansion of settlement beyond the government-determined limits of location unleashed. In a way, 1835: The Founding of Melbourne and the Conquest of Australia can be seen as a sequel to Boyce’s much-admired environmentalist rewriting of Tasmanian colonial history, Van Diemen’s Land (2008), which brought its story to a close with a chapter on ‘Victoria’s Van Diemonian Foundation’.

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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.

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