A landmark history of Australia's first successful settler farming area, which was on the Hawkesbury-Nepean River. Award-winning historian Grace Karskens uncovers the everyday lives of ordinary people in the early colony, both Aboriginal and British.
Winner of the NSW Premier's Australian History Prize 2021
Co-winner of the Ernest Scott Prize for History 2021
'A masterpiece of historical writing that takes your breath away' - Tom Griffiths
'A majestic book' - John Maynard
'Shimmering prose' - Tiffany Shellam
Dyarubbin, the Hawkesbury-Nepean River, is where the two early Australias - ancient and modern - first collided. People of the River journeys into the lost worlds of the Aboriginal people and the settlers of Dyarubbin, both complex worlds with ancient roots.
The settlers who took land on the river from the mid-1790s were there because of an extraordinary experiment devised half a world away. Modern Australia was not founded as a gaol, as we usually suppose, but as a colony. Britain's felons, transported to the other side of the world, were meant to become settlers in the new colony. They made history on the river: it was the first successful white farming frontier, a community that nurtured the earliest expressions of patriotism, and it became the last bastion of eighteenth-century ways of life.
The Aboriginal people had occupied Dyarubbin for at least 50,000 years. Their history, culture and spirituality were inseparable from this river Country. Colonisation kicked off a slow and cumulative process of violence, theft of Aboriginal children and ongoing annexation of the river lands. Yet despite that sorry history, Dyarubbin's Aboriginal people managed to remain on their Country, and they still live on the river today.
The Hawkesbury-Nepean was the seedbed for settler expansion and invasion of Aboriginal lands to the north, south and west. It was the crucible of the colony, and the nation that followed.
Grace Karskens is author of The Colony, winner of the 2010 Prime Minister's Non-fiction Award, and of The Rocks, winner of the 1998 NSW Premier's History Award. She is Professor of History at the University of New South Wales and a Fellow of the Australian Academy of the Humanities.
Winner Australian History Prize, NSW Premier's History Awards 2021 AU; Winner Henry A. Wallace Award for Agricultural History 2021 US; Co-winner Ernest Scott Prize 2021 AU; Finalist George Perkins Marsh Prize for Best Book in Environmental History, American Society for Environmental History 2021 US; Longlisted Best Non-fiction, Indie Book Awards 2021 AU; Highly Commended Non-Fiction, Victorian Premier's Literary Awards 2021 AU
Table Of Contents:
Part I Deep Country
1 Old land, first people
Part II Frontiers
3 The great experiment
4 Contact and crossings
5 Conflict: given no peace
Part III New Old Land
6 Forests and clearings
7 Farming in the bush
8 Floods and flood-mindedness
9 Commoners and strangers
Part IV People of the River
10 Family fortunes
11 Family survival
12 The people's pleasures
13 Transforming cultures
14 Sacred landscapes
15 Sacred Country
List of abbreviations used in the notes
Allen & Unwin
Allen & Unwin
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