University of Tasmania
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Antipodean England'? A history of drought, fire and flood in Tasmania from European settlement in 1803 to the 1960s.

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posted on 2023-05-26, 03:03 authored by Evans, Kathryn
The influence of climatic variability on the European history of Tasmania has largely been neglected as a field of study. It is demonstrated here that severe weather events, such as drought, floods, storms, extreme cold and bushfires, have had a significant impact on that history. Drought affected farming operations, town water supplies, mining and industry, and later hydro-electric power generation. Floods and storms disrupted transport and communication networks and damaged property in towns and in the country. Bushfires also periodically wrought widespread property damage. An environmental history approach is employed to explore the dominant images and perceptions of Tasmania‚ÄövÑvºs climate, the impacts of severe weather events on the population, the responses made to them, and how these changed over time from 1803 to the 1960s. For ease of analysis, the thesis is divided into four periods of post settlement history: early European settlement from 1803 to the 1810s; the period of pastoral expansion from the 1820s to 1855; from self-government in 1856 to 1900; and from Federation in 1901 to the 1960s. Scrutiny of a range of primary and secondary source material, including official despatches, government department records, meteorological data, emigrant guides, scientific papers, newspaper accounts, farm diaries and private correspondence, published and unpublished works on the histories of towns or regions, industries, government agencies, land settlement policies and Tasmanian identity and promotion, resulted in new insights into the role played by severe weather events on Tasmanian history. The thesis also advances knowledge of these events and their impacts on Tasmanian society, economics and politics. From the first years of settlement Tasmania was widely promoted and regarded as an ‚ÄövÑvªAntipodean England‚ÄövÑvº ‚Äö- relatively free of the harsh climatic extremes of mainland Australia. It is argued here that this image was both inaccurate and inappropriate ‚Äö- inaccurate because drought, floods, storms and bushfires are all part of the natural weather cycles of Tasmania and have, at times, severely affected the Tasmanian population; and inappropriate, because it downplayed the potential risks posed by climatic variability and contributed to a state of unpreparedness by government and the wider population. The thesis demonstrates that severe weather events have long affected Tasmanian history, that they occur within a wider environmental, cultural and societal context that influences their human consequences, and that the nature and severity of these impacts changed over time.


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Copyright 2012 the Author

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  • Open

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