Review of Angela Woolacott, Settler Society in the Australian Colonies: Self-Government and Imperial Culture
Petrow, S, Review of Angela Woolacott, Settler Society in the Australian Colonies: Self-Government and Imperial Culture, Australia & New Zealand Law & History, 3 pp. 167-8. ISSN 1177-3170 (2016) [Letter or Note in Journal]
Angela Woollacott's new book focuses on the decades from the 1820s to the 1860s, which she rightly argues 'constitute a foundational period in Australian history, arguably at least as important as Federation'. Building on a large body of historical work, she seeks to enlarge our understanding of 'how the inhabitants of the Australian colonies perceived the growth of a free settler society from its convict origins [and] how "Australians" understood their rapidly evolving place in a profoundly changing world'. She takes 'a wide view of the Australian continent', not just focusing on New South Wales and Van Diemen's Land, but taking her examples from all the colonies to produce 'a more varied and more complex' picture of the nature of 'settler colonialism and the ways in which it subsumed what had been penal colonies'. But she stresses that we must see 'these fledgling colonies not only as a connected continental network, but as part of the globally expanding British Empire'. By placing 'the maturing Australian colonies within the imperial and global context', Woollacott seeks to throw new 'light on their push for self-government and manhood (adult male) suffrage, as well as their claims to land and conceptions of warfare'. Her broader aim is to contribute to 'the current interest in historicizing settler colonialism and in showing the significance of its massive expansion in the early to mid-nineteenth century ... by drawing connections between political, cultural, and social aspects of settler society in Australia'.