/Colonial History

Elizabeth Macarthur’s Quilt at the National Gallery of Victoria

The gallery had sold out of the glossy, colour catalogue for Making the Australian Quilt: 1800–1950 by the time I saw the exhibition last week. But I had a terrific chat with the young woman serving at the museum shop while I placed an order to have the catalogue mailed out (at a discounted rate, no less). "Isn't it interesting," she said, "how contemporary some of those quilt designs are. It's amazing to think they predated modernism by decades.  But not acknowledged, of course." She gave me a gorgeous, wry [...]

Mrs Macquarie and the tragic accident

Headstone of Grace and Richard Veale, Elizabeth Macarthur's sister and father. St Bridget's churchyard, Bridgerule. Source: Adventures in Biography One of the problems of being a researcher of women's history is all the dead children. Over and over again the archives yield stories of families broken by illness, accident and disease - so many stories that they are in danger of seeming commonplace. But of course the death of each child was, to his or her own family, an occasion of enormous tragedy. Elizabeth Macarthur lost [...]

The Cook and the Curator

© Sydney Living Museums The Cook and the Curator is a wonderful blog published by Sydney Living Museums. Sydney Living Museums cares for a group of 12 of the most important historic houses, gardens and museums in NSW. Formerly the Historic Houses Trust of NSW, the new identity was launched in 2013 and attempts to: ...bring our museums to life through a dynamic and diverse program of exhibitions, research and events such as walks, talks and tours so that our visitors can experience Sydney's past as if they had [...]

2018-03-27T19:40:52+11:00April 21st, 2016|Colonial History|2 Comments

The Journals of Lachlan and Elizabeth Macquarie

Elizabeth Macquarie (1778-1835) Today's amazing online resource - the Journals of Lachlan and Elizabeth Macquarie - is generously brought to us all by Macquarie University and the State Library of New South Wales. Click here for full transcripts of diaries written over thirteen years by Lachlan Macquarie, governor of colonial New South Wales between 1810 and 1822, and his wife, Elizabeth. Elizabeth Macquarie’s diary describes the couple’s journey to Australia in 1809, including accounts of Madeira, Rio de Janeiro, and Cape Town. Her husband’s diaries are [...]

2018-03-24T23:26:17+11:00March 18th, 2016|Colonial History|7 Comments

Finding Eliza: Power and Colonial Storytelling by Larissa Behrendt – Book Review

Eliza Fraser's story is one hell of a tale.  No doubt you've heard it before: young woman shipwrecked off the Queensland coast in the 1836, long days at sea in an open boat, cast ashore on a large island inhabited by Aboriginal savages, husband killed and Eliza rescued from 'a fate worse than death' just in the nick of time. Perhaps you came across Eliza's story in Patrick White's A Fringe of Leaves.  Maybe you've seen Tim Burstall's 1976 film Eliza Fraser (with Noel Ferrier as the husband and Abigail [...]

2018-03-27T20:27:04+11:00February 27th, 2016|Book Review, Colonial History|0 Comments

Sydney Gazette – a treasure from Trove

© Stephen Beaumont, Dreamstime Stock Photos Was there ever a more aptly named site than Trove?  I've been having a lovely time searching through copies of the Sydney Gazette from 1805. Along the way I stumbled across the following, marvellous snippets.  An eloping goose, dingoes, eels, goats and even a pot-smoking Reverend. A grey goose last week eloped from its owner, after a long and faithful servitude in different families. It came originally from Hawkesbury, and is, or possibly was considered of sixteen brothers and sisters the only [...]

2018-03-21T14:55:34+11:00November 4th, 2015|Colonial History|0 Comments

Australian Colonial Dance

Serendipity used to mean flicking through a dictionary and finding interesting and unusual words. But now it means stumbling across fascinating websites.  Like this one: Australian Colonial Dance. It's a lovely little blog about dance and music in colonial Australia, with interesting information and (crucially) bibliographic lists of sources. Of course my favourite post is the one describing Australia's first piano. Surgeon George Worgan, thirty-three, had improbably managed to bring a piano with him on the First Fleet.  In 1790 he gallantly began to tutor Elizabeth Macarthur, telling her [...]

2018-03-24T22:48:58+11:00October 21st, 2015|Colonial History|8 Comments

Marsden Online Archive

Samuel Marsden. Picture source: Wikimedia Commons It still amazes me that I can sit on my couch of an evening (fire crackling, tv blaring, #1 son immersed in the XBox) and yet the miracle that is the Internet means I can read a journal from 1814 in the original. Shall we pause for moment to consider how brilliant that is? The particular journal I found belonged to one Rev Samuel Marsden.  In Australia he was more or less reviled as the flogging parson but apparently he was (and, [...]

What were they thinking? The crazy cargo carried on Australia’s First Fleet

If you and about 1420 of your closest convict, marines and sailor friends were about to set off an expedition to Mars, what do you think you would take? Cpt Arthur Phillip RN Source: wikimedia commons That was the question faced by the British bureaucracy when provisioning the eleven vessels of the First Fleet in the late 1700s, before they set sail for Botany Bay and New South Wales.  A destination, by the way, where Captain Cook and Sir Joseph Banks, et al had previously spent all of [...]

2018-03-21T14:55:37+11:00June 8th, 2015|Colonial History|0 Comments

Saying Goodbye to your Children

This week I waved my son off to camp - he'll be away for nine days.  Elizabeth Macarthur waved her young sons off too, to be educated in England, for years at a time.  I don't think I can imagine how she felt.  Or can I? Inga Clendinnen explored the problem at length in The History Question: Who owns the past? (Quarterly Essay, Issue 23) We cannot post ourselves back in time. People really did think differently then – or at least we must proceed on that assumption...It is true that [...]