University Of Tasmania
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An environmental history of British settlement in Van Diemen's Land : the making of a distinct people, 1798-1831

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posted on 2023-05-26, 03:00 authored by Boyce, PJ
Van Diemen's Land received approximately 72 000 convicts, mainly from the British Isles and Ireland, between 1 803 and 1 853, and convicts and their descendants formed the large majority of the population of the island colony throughout this time. This thesis focuses on the environmental experience of this majority population in the first three decades of settlement. It argues that the history of British settlement of Van Diemen's Land, and consequently, to a not insignificant extent, Australia, has been distorted by a failure to recognize that the rigorous attempts to reproduce English rural society - social and environmental - were largely undertaken by a relatively small group of free settlers. The consequence of the failure to recognize the extent to which socio-economic background shaped environmental experience, is that the life-changing experience of the new land by a people without the capital or privilege to buffer them from an immediate experience of place, have been obscured. The thesis studies how the rich and accessible resources of the off-shore islands, coastal bays and estuaries and, above all, grassy woodlands of the midlands and east coast provided convicts and former convicts with an economic and physical refuge from the rigorous and often brutal attempts to turn them into a disciplined subservient labour force. This encounter with the new land occurred in the context of a populated and defended land, and while this thesis is not 'Aboriginal history', the Aborigines are inevitably central to the British experience, and the cross-cultural meeting and conflict are major themes within it.


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Copyright 2006 the author

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