James Boyce

Before reading Richard Flanagan’s new book, Toxic: The rotting underbelly of the Tasmanian salmon industry, it is useful to remember that Australia’s southern isle was once the penal colony of Van Diemen’s Land. During the first fifty years of the colony’s existence, a small ruling élite achieved a near monopoly over the island’s most lucrative natural resources, the subservience of the majority convict population, and considerable profit from the public licences and patronage associated with political power. Far from these privileges ending with the cessation of transportation, self-government allowed the establishment to so entrench their interests that no substantial separation existed between the promotion of them and the functions of the state.

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It is wonderful to immerse oneself for days in the precise, elegant, passionate words of historian Inga Clendinnen (1934–2016), as this welcome collection of her writings enables one to do. Clendinnen’s distinctive voice comes through: warm, confidential, witty, and driven by a fierce intelligence. All her major writings are here – essays, articles, lectures, memoirs, and extracts from her books – deftly selected by James Boyce, a historian thirty years younger than Clendinnen and himself a highly original thinker and writer. As Boyce observes in his perceptive introduction, ‘Clendinnen’s subject was nothing less than human consciousness.’

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Richard Flanagan's new work, Toxic, is a startling exposé on Tasmania's salmon farming industry. From genetically altered 'frankenfish' to the use of dangerous chemicals to turn 'dead-grey flesh a marketable red', the industrial machinations uncovered in Flanagan's new work are stomach-churning. As James Boyce writes in his review, 'After the publication of Toxic, I doubt Tasmania will ever be the same again.'

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Gambling is part of Australia’s self-definition. The way we like to tell the story, lads at Gallipoli went over the top with a two-up kip in one hand and a rifle in the other, while exchanging tips for the Melbourne Cup ...

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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 ...

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