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1788 Paperback – January 5, 2009
"Enlightenment Now: The Case for Reason, Science, Humanism, and Progress"
Is the world really falling apart? Is the ideal of progress obsolete? Cognitive scientist and public intellectual Steven Pinker urges us to step back from the gory headlines and prophecies of doom, and instead, follow the data: In seventy-five jaw-dropping graphs, Pinker shows that life, health, prosperity, safety, peace, knowledge, and happiness are on the rise. Learn more
Watkin Tench sailed to Australia with the First Fleet in 1788. In his late twenties, a captain of the marines, he was insatiably curious about the new British colony of Australia. In his four years in the country, he wrote two books about the early settlement that were bestsellers in their day: A Narrative of the Expedition to Botany Bay (1789) and An Account of the Settlement at Port Jackson (1793). Both are included in full in this edition, lovingly edited by Tim Flannery.
Tench is the most readable of writers, and his books are fascinating for the vivid portraits they provide of early Australia. He introduces us to the iconic figures of Arthur Phillip and Bennelong, and provides fascinating descriptions of the infant colony. This popular edition of his two books should be read by every Australian.
Tench stands out amongst the storytellers of Australian history because of his lively and accessible writing, his ability to tell his tale with gusto and wit.
Tench will always remain the classic contemporary witness of our beginnings.' Les Murray
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was this sense of isolation to the Europeans at Sydney Cove that it later prompted a comment from one of the very few women in the colony in a missive to her family in England that it "was like being buried alive" I can just feel the weight of that comment. Well recommended to all readers interested in history and the human condition, but especially to Australian readers to help understand what "the beginning" was really like.
'Ithaca itself was scarcely more longed for by Ulysses than Botany Bay by the adventurers who had traversed so many thousand miles to take possession of it.'
In early 1787, a London publishing house (John Debrett of Picadilly) commissioned Watkin Tench to write an account of both the journey to New Holland and its settlement. Watkin Tench's tour of service lasted almost five years, and during this time he wrote two books about the early settlement. Those books: `A Narrative of the Expedition to Botany Bay' (1789) and `An Account of the Settlement at Port Jackson' (1793) were bestsellers when first published and are both included in this book.
`Extent of empire demands grandeur of design.'
Tench is easy to read, and his books provide a fascinating portrait of the first four years of early European settlement in Australia. There's plenty of drama: a group of escaped convicts seek to travel to China, and many of the encounters with the Aborigines (called Indians by Tench) are tense. For much of the period Tench was in residence, the small colony has periods of uncertainty when food runs short, and supplies are difficult to obtain.
`If a lucky man who had knocked down a dinner with his gun, or caught a fish by angling from the rocks, invited a neighbour to dine with him, the invitation always ran, 'bring your own bread.' Even at the governor's table this custom was constantly observed. Every man when he sat down pulled his bread out of his pocket and laid it by his plate.'
`On the policy of settling, with convicts only, a country at once so remote and extensive, I shall offer no remarks.'
Tench writes of Arthur Phillip (the founder of the settlement, and first Governor of New South Wales), and Bennelong (one of the most notable of the Aboriginal people living in the area of the early European settlement).
`The tranquil indifference and unenquiring eye with which they surveyed our works of art have often, in my hearing, been stigmatised as proofs of stupidity and want of reflection. But surely we should distinguish between ignorance and defect of understanding. The truth was, they often neither comprehended the design nor conceived the utility of such works, but on subjects in any degree familiarised to their ideas, they generally testified not only acuteness of discernment but a large portion of good sense.'
I'd recommend this book to anyone interested in Australia's early European settlement. Watkin Tench's account is both interesting and accessible. He writes of the voyage out from England, with stops in both Tenerife and Rio de Janeiro, and of a range of topics including the enforcement of law and order, of agriculture, the fauna and the weather.
`Here terminates my subject.'
This is a thoughtful and factual account by a young man who is perceived to be a key figure in Australian history. So what about a statue of Watkins in Chester, or at least blue plaque?