Edmund Barton, by John Reynolds

Yes, I have finally managed to put up another post on this Blog – been quite a while I know. I apologise for that – been very busy with other pursuits.

Today’s book review is on ‘Edmund Barton,’ by John Reynolds. This book is the first in a series on Australia’s Prime Ministers by Bookman Press. The Bookman Press series sought to re-publish the best biographies on each of the Australian Prime Ministers to coincide with the centenary of Australian Federation. ‘Edmund Barton,’ by John Reynolds, was first published in 1948.

This book, though about Edmund Barton, is also a good introduction to the process of Australia becoming a federation of colonies to form the modern day nation of Australia. A biography of Barton must be a study of the beginning of Federation as Barton was probably one of the most important players in bringing Federation to pass, which also meant the creation of Australia as one nation. It is a fascinating introduction to just how a modern Australia was born from the federation of the various colonies that were then situated on the Australian mainland and in Tasmania.

As far as reading goes, I found the book to contain much that interested me, as I have not read or studied a lot on the federation of Australia and the process by which it was achieved. For me this has been an important addition to my understanding of Australian history in an area in which my understanding was quite poor. Having said that, I do not think the book is necessarily an easy read, but requires discipline to keep at it.

‘The Fatal Shore,’ by Robert Hughes

This is not the usual book review I guess, as I haven’t yet read the entire book. I have however started to read this book, which I think is now regarded as a must read on early Australian history. I have read the first 5 chapters or the first 157 pages – it is a 688 page work.

‘The Fatal Shore’ is by Robert Hughes and was first published in Great Britain by Collins Harvill in 1987. My edition is the paperback edition of 1996, published by The Harvill Press in London.

‘The Fatal Shore’ is the story of convict settlement in Australia, from the early history of transportation from England to Australia, including the steps that led to it. It describes in straight forward, matter of fact way, the plight of English convicts being sent to Botany Bay in all of its brutal reality. The reality of the picture painted by Robert Hughes removes any lingering thoughts of pioneering adventure with which the convicts may have been involved in. It is a harsh world, where the punishment dished out far exceeded the crimes involved in many, many cases.

There are individual accounts of convicts and their crimes, with detailed descriptions of the horrors they endured on a voyage to New South Wales or one of the other colonies as they were established around Australia.

It is not just a story of the convicts, it is a story of invasion, as Aboriginal Australia gave way before the steady push of colonial endeavour by the English invaders. It is the story of the red coats, of the sailors, of the governors, etc. In short, it is a history of the convict era in Australia and all that it brought with it.

I am enjoying this account of early Australian history and would recommend it to anyone who has not yet read it – especially those living in Australia. It seems to me to be a more honest account of Australia’s early history than that which we may hear about in school – if we hear much about it at all. A must read.