A History of Tasmania
Cambridge University Press, $39.95 pb, 336 pp, 9780521548373
Henry Reynolds is the pre-eminent historian of Aboriginal–settler relations in Australia, and with this theme he begins his history of Tasmania. He eschews the obligatory set piece description of Aboriginal society before the Europeans arrived, with which so many books now awkwardly commence. His opening chapter is ‘First Meetings: Extraordinary Encounters’, where the explorers and founders of settlements are not much more than names and the interest is in how the Aborigines responded to them. I thought it was by design to leave the reader knowing little more about these Europeans than the Aborigines did, but it is not altogether so, for in the next chapter Reynolds operates as if he has told us much more about the identity and motivation of the Europeans than he actually has.