1787: The Lost Chapters of Australia’s Beginnings (Nick Brodie, Hardie Grant)
Australia’s documented history is ‘like a manuscript with the opening pages torn off,’ writes Nick Brodie in the opening of his latest book, 1787: The Lost Chapters of Australia’s Beginnings. Brodie sets out to restore those opening pages by studying encounters between Australia and the outside world in the three centuries preceding the arrival of the First Fleet. All of these encounters, he argues—between Australians and Spanish, Dutch, and Portuguese voyagers—have been ignored and relegated to a time before ‘progress’, to footnotes and prefaces that are but a warm-up for the British arrival. Looking back, the author of Kin recovers a ‘bigger’ story than we’re commonly told and offers a kaleidoscopic study of these mercantile and expeditionary European voyages through the south Pacific in the 17th and 18th centuries. Close readings of original journals, manuscripts and accounts allow Brodie to recreate these encounters with an eye toward their complexity and impact, and to peel back the narratives that have come to shape Australian history. 1787 works for both devotees and general readers of history and Australiana. Though occasionally melodramatic, it is a thoughtful and intelligent work that illuminates the past in new and exciting way.
Patrick Mullins is a Canberra-based academic and writer