By Rama Gaind
PS News Books
Botany Bay: The Real Story
By Alan Frost (Black Inc., $24.95, softcover, 276 pages)
It is with great tenacity that Alan Frost has been researching the origins of modern Australia for more than three decades.
It may be ‘height of folly or arrogance’, but he is challenging the established historiography of Australia’s beginnings that he feels is “severely limited in its perspective and wrong in a number of its central conclusions”.
A number of his conclusions also markedly differ to those he has given earlier with much of what he has to say contradicting accepted ‘wisdom in Australian history’.
The emeritus professor of history at Melbourne’s La Trobe University puts forward some convincing arguments, and disagreements, without being disrespectful.
In Botany Bay: The Real Story he analyses the decisions behind why the British colonised NSW. What he is most concerned about are the “political and strategic decision-making processes, and the administrative procedures by which decisions were implemented”.
One contention Frost puts forth is that the British did not settle Botany Bay simply as a “dumping ground for convicts”. Neither was it a desperate move or a final option. It was part of an ambitious plan to expand British trade and strategic bases in the Indian and Pacific Oceans.
In fact, deciding on Botany Bay was part of an ambitious plan to not only rid Britain of its excess criminals, but also to gain a key strategic outpost and take control of valuable natural resources.
An expert in 18th-century history, Frost has also linked this chronicle with debate over modern Australia, interspersing it with global warfare, trade, diplomacy and connecting it all with vibrantly graphic accounts.
We get a “better understanding” of who we are and where we come from by being explicit and straightforward. “Only in this way is the cause of history properly served; and also that of the nation.”
Edition 406, 22 April 2014
To find out more about Rama Gaind click here.