Tench, a humble captain-lieutenant of the marines, arrived on the First Fleet, and with his characteristic understanding, humanity, and eye for detail, recorded the first four years of European settlement. This is a classic, lovingly edited and introduced by Tim Flannery, author of the best-selling The Future Eaters, Throwim Way Leg, and The Weather Makers.
©2009 Tim Flannery; (P)2009 Bolinda Publishing Pty Ltd
"Not to have read Watkin Tench is not to know early Australia. An eye that noticed everything, a young man's verve, a sly wit, an elegant prose style - all brought to bear on an unimagined place and a very strange micro-society. This is the most readable classic of early Australian history." (Robert Hughes)
"Tench will always remain the classic contemporary witness of our beginnings." (Les Murray)
"Tench's work is a stunning time machine." (Chloe Hooper)
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"A true classic"
This is a must-read for those intrigued by the issues of creating a society from scratch. These are the diaries of one of the 800 soldiers taking part in the task of 11 small ships transporting 722 convicts (17 child convicts included) from England to Australia (8 months). What a scenario! Immediately upon landing they had to create shelter, establish food sources in a totally alien climate and soils as wells as deal with the immediately subjugated Indigenous people -- not to mention controlling the convicts. All this was effected with the minimal support from England who at one stage sent out more convicts rather than materials, and who became preoccupied with going to war.
Watkin Tench's diaries record his observations. What is so extraordinary about them, is that aspects read as if they were written today: Australia still hasn't really worked out an appropriate relationship with the greatly disadvantaged indigenous people; the British colonists imposed their own culture of housing and food source and today the environment, dominated by British land clearing and plant and animal pests, continues to impede this invasion. There are familiar themes around issues of law and order and social cohesion.
Tench was clear minded and compassionate (within the context of his culture) and wrote elegantly and succinctly. Professor Tim Flannery, the editor, is highly regarded Australian environmental commentator.
The tone of the reader is appropriate (though I think this was definitely one for John Lee) but it is poorly produced and deserved much better.
This book, enjoyable in itself, has resonances for other countries during the era of European invasion which planted the seeds of our modern world.
"A Dry subject made interesting"
This was Australian history narrated in the voice of the author giving such concise details, it was easy to visualise what was happening in the earliest days. The Britishness of his oh so correct phrasing narrated oh so correctly made it a pleasure to listen to. I have always been in awe of the first settlers of my vast, arid country who survived incredible hardships in this upside down country compared to their lush and crowded own. The cultural shock is immense to this day but is such a contrast to the rest of the world and still emerging. Well worth a visit.
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