The Great Race: The Race between the English and the French to Complete the Map of Australia (David Hill, William Heinemann)
Following his successful books 1788 and The Gold Rush, David Hill’s The Great Race traces the little-known story of the competition between Britain and France to chart the last stretches of the Australian coast not yet explored by Europeans. We all know about Cook, Bass and Flinders, but what about La Pérouse, D’Entrecasteaux and Baudin? The French were committed to the exploration of the South Seas and Australia in particular, and sent multiple well-equipped expeditions to the southern continent. Their influence is now mainly reflected in place names such as Esperance, Cape Naturaliste and the Bonaparte Archipelago. Hill’s book is well researched and well written and fills a gap in the existing literature of the early European exploration of the continent. In particular, it challenges the ‘Rule Britannia’ version of our early European history that many of us would have learnt at school. The Great Race is a maritime history and a colonial history, and will appeal to lovers of both. Given the sales of Batavia, this could be a big hit in the popular history genre at the end of the year.
Dave Martus is the manager of Dymocks Neutral Bay in Sydney. He has many years’ experience as a bookseller and buyer in Australia and the UK