Dancing With Strangers: Europeans and Australians at First by Inga Clendinnen

By Inga Clendinnen

In January 1788, the 1st Fleet arrived in New South Wales, Australia and 1000 British women and men encountered the folk who will be their new buddies. Dancing with Strangers tells the tale of what occurred among the 1st British settlers of Australia and those Aborigines. Inga Clendinnen translates the earliest written resources, and the studies, letters and journals of the 1st British settlers in Australia. She reconstructs the tricky route to friendship and conciliation pursued by way of Arthur Phillip and the neighborhood chief 'Bennelong' (Baneelon) that was once eventually destroyed by way of the statement of profound cultural transformations. A Prize-winning archaeologist, anthropologist and historian of old Mexican cultures, Inga Clendinnen has spent such a lot of her educating profession at los angeles Trobe collage in Bundoora, Australia. Ambivalent Conquests: Maya and Spaniard in Yucatan (Cambridge, 1989) and Aztecs: An Interpretation (Cambridge, 1995) are of her best-known scholarly works; Tiger's Eye: A Memoir, (Scribner, 2001) describes her conflict opposed to liver melanoma. examining the Holocaust (Cambridge, 2002) explores global conflict II genocide from a number of views.

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Pious Mrs Johnson was the only lady in Sydney until the arrival of lively young Elizabeth Macarthur in July 1790, and Elizabeth found her sadly dull. Later Elizabeth would lament every reduction in her tiny circle of friends when, with their terms of duty ended, her favourite officers went home: gaining Mr Worgan’s piano was no compensation for losing Mr Worgan, while the loss of Captain Tench was scarcely to be borne. While the letter-writers might have more immediate verve than the formal journal-keepers, it is the Big Five of Tench, White, Hunter, Collins and Phillip himself who provide us with most of our information regarding life in the young colony.

He was, as we might expect, charmed by the women. Out on an expedition with the governor late in August 1788, the British fell in with a large party of Australians at Manly Cove, and the women, who seemed to stand ‘in very great dread’ of their menfolk, were coaxed into accepting gifts: ‘Every gentleman,’ White tells us, ‘singled out a female and presented her with some trinkets…’ Commenting appreciatively that ‘many of the women were strait, well-formed, and lively’, White decked his chosen girl with strips of cloth torn from his pocket and neck handkerchiefs.

It was certainly a deeply uncanny situation. It is against this background of casual contempt and intelligent anxiety that we have to locate Phillip’s determined optimism. From the beginning, and remarkably, he recognised the Australians’ wants and expressions to be as powerfully felt as his own, and as we will see he acknowledged some conflicts. But he also remained persuaded of something not at all evident: that in time the Australians would inevitably come to recognise the benefits of the British presence among them, not only in material matters, but in the unique, incomparable gift of British law.

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