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The Biggest Estate on Earth: How Aborigines Made Australia Paperback


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Product Details

  • Paperback: 384 pages
  • Publisher: Allen & Unwin; Reprint edition (April 1, 2013)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 174331132X
  • ISBN-13: 978-1743311325
  • Product Dimensions: 9.6 x 6.7 x 1.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 2.3 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (17 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #277,893 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

Review

"A beautiful and profound piece of writing, one that has importance for us all."  —Age


"This bold book, with its lucid prose and vivid illustrations, will be discussed for years to come."  —Australian Book Review

About the Author

Bill Gammage is a historian and the author of the The Broken Years: Australian Soldiers in the Great War and Sky Travellers.

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Customer Reviews

Great book, extensively researched and fairly well written.
Stephen Williams
Bill Gammage has done much to bury once and for all, the notion that Australia was an unmanaged landscape inhabited by nomadic hunter-gatherers.
Lotte St Clair
This book is a life changer, a real eye opener, you will never see Australia and our history in the same way again.
marie gunderson-briggs

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

8 of 9 people found the following review helpful By SarahBlaec on May 3, 2012
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
This is a very thought-provoking book, and one that is likely to lead to lots of heated debate. The author proposes that intricately coordinated scientific use of varying fire regimes by Aboriginals in Australia has changed the types of vegetation throughout the environment, leading to the 'park-like' appearance of many areas noted by early European settlers. He contends that the landscapes that we see as natural are in fact 'made', and that the cessation of Aboriginal burning regimes in many areas has resulted in the gradual return of these landscapes to previous wilder forms.

This book represents the upper end of a spectrum of theories of the impact of Aboriginal fire regimes on Australian landscapes. While many people may agree with the some or all of the statements in this book, many may, like me, find themselves at a different point on the spectrum. Nonetheless, it's a very thought-provoking book, and I'd suggest it's a good read for anyone interested in the history or ecology of the Australian landscape.

A note on the Kindle version: While it was great for the most part (none of the formatting issues that I've found in some Kindle books before), I think if I were purchasing again I'd go for a print copy. In the first section the reader is presented with 50 images - paintings, drawings, photographs, and diagrams - and details are highlighted and comparisons drawn between them. This part would be much easier to follow if the images were in colour, and you were able to easily flip back and forth between pages to make comparisons. I ended up using the Amazon Cloud Reader to get through this part of the book (in colour) and that was great, but not as convenient as reading on the Kindle.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Amber laris on January 8, 2013
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
This book has changed how I look at the landscape I've grown up with& love.So many questions that have run through my head for decades have been answered.An absolutely marvellous book - it will change what you see
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Amazon Customer on November 5, 2012
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
Bill Gammage, let's face it, is a humble name for a venerable Australian historian. The Biggest Estate tells a fascinating story of how thousands of generations of the First Australians shaped our land. Now in just five or six generations of white settlement, we have damaged it, hopefully not irretrievably. My first doubts about the vamdalism of settlement came after my mother retired to Alice Springs in the centre of Australia. In those days cattle runs came to the edge of town. It was a sad and dusty place. Over the last 20 years since the cattle were blocked out, the desert scrub returned, the dust eased off and, dare I say it, "The Alice" is now a pretty place, well worth visiting.
Fire became a problem with the regrowth. I had the instinctive fear of fire which regularly ravaged the coastal states. Wild fire still does, even though we have learned to burn off to ease the danger in our summer of dry fuel build-up - such as leaves, bark, dead scrub under the giant Eucalypts. Gammage draws on hundreds of sources, many in the years after first settlement in 1788. The Australian landscape then resembled a cultivated "gentleman's park". The Aborigines gardened the open landscape with selective fire. Perhaps once a year for grassland, every two years to clear low scrub, every four years to thin wattle and every 20 to open up tall timber.
In my latest book (unpublished but coming out as a Kindle soon, I hope) I trace the global migration of the First Australians out of East Africa, across South and Southeast Asia, along the Indonesian islands to northern Australia and New Guinea. It was a time when sea levels were about 150 metres lower so they could drift, taking perhaps 10,000 years to reach and settle an empty Australia 50,000 years ago.
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2 of 3 people found the following review helpful By Susan Mangion on September 7, 2012
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
Cultivation by fire - amazing. Even though I already had a love of the Australian bush this book really opened my eyes to how it used to be. This book gives a detailed picture (almost like an artist painting) of how it used to look and then gives a clear comparison of how it is now. I would recommend that every Australian read this book, particularly those who are trying to reduce fire hazards now to prevent major bushfires occuring. Aboriginal Australians need to be included in the decision making about hazard reduction and environmental and ecological issues. So much loss - wisdom, spirituality, country - I finally understand the grief and I cry too!
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By M. Cluse on March 26, 2014
Format: Kindle Edition
Be prepared to shed a heap of tears for the pre-1788 peoples. This has been to longest, slowest, most achingly sad read that I have ever made. All the more horrifying for being, ASAIK, and to the best of my critical abilities coupled with a lifetime of flying over this now now-mostly-sad country, an accurate accounting for the huge number of apparent bio-mass anomalies that I've observed. Thanks to Prof Gammage, I believe I now have an accurate handle on how the people managed the land. With delicacy, and vast knowledge of the environment. Sure: they changed the environment, most races do. And sure, their techniques and procedures probably couldn't support the current population of Oz ~~ or could they? We'll never know. But I do know now why 'they', the progeny of the pre-1788 peoples, are mired in alcohol and pain. Read this book and feel the pain of their loss, and be glad that there were *some* lucid people who recorded the first 20 years of our unilateral occupation of this place, and that we have a measure of the appalling closed minds of the crims and coppers who first pushed their way in. I have sworn that if I come by any money, I will buy 2 copies of this text-book to distribute to ever Council and Shire Engineer in the land. In the meantime, read it, learn, and weep for the losses of our friends, who have suffered so much, and yet still mainly maintain their *Australian* sense of humour, Their care and regard for their neighbours, and who were also equally ready to defend *their* soil against the stupid, of their race, and of ours. Thanks, Bill, so very much. Cheers. Jen Cluse.
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