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A History of Tasmania


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 (ISBN-13: 9781139368964)

A History of Tasmania
Cambridge University Press
9781107014589 - A History of Tasmania - By Henry Reynolds

A History of Tasmania

This captivating work charts the history of Tasmania from the arrival of European maritime expeditions in the late eighteenth century, through to the modern day. By presenting the perspectives of both Indigenous Tasmanians and British settlers, author Henry Reynolds provides an original and engaging exploration of these fraught first encounters.

Utilising key themes to bind his narrative, Reynolds explores how geography created a unique economic and migratory history for Tasmania, quite separate to the mainland experience. He offers an astute analysis of the island's economic and demographic reality, by noting that this facilitated the survival of a rich heritage of colonial architecture unique in Australia, and allowed the resident population to foster a powerful web of kinship.

Reynolds’ remarkable capacity to empathise with the characters of his chronicle makes this a powerful, engaging and moving account of Tasmania's unique position within Australian history.

Henry Reynolds is Research Professor in the Department of History and Classics at the University of Tasmania. His previous books include An Indelible Stain?, Nowhere People: How International Race Thinking Shaped Australia's Identity and Why Weren’t We Told?

A History of Tasmania

Henry Reynolds

Cambridge, New York, Melbourne, Madrid, Cape Town, Singapore, São Paulo, Delhi, Tokyo, Mexico City

Cambridge University Press
477 Williamstown Road, Port Melbourne, VIC 3207, Australia

Published in the United States of America by Cambridge University Press, New York
Information on this title:

© Henry Reynolds 2012

This publication is copyright. Subject to statutory exception and to the provisions of relevant collective licensing agreements, no reproduction of any part may take place without the written permission of Cambridge University Press.

First published 2012

Cover design by Anne-Marie Reeves
Typeset by Aptara Corp
Printed in China by Printplus Co. Ltd

A catalogue record for this publication is available from the British Library

National Library of Australia Cataloguing in Publication data

Reynolds, Henry, 1938–
A history of Tasmania / Henry Reynolds.
9781107014589 (hbk.)
Includes bibliographical references and index.
Tasmania – History.

ISBN 978-1-107-01458-9 Hardback
ISBN 978-0-521-54837-3 Paperback

Reproduction and communication for educational purposesThe Australian Copyright Act 1968 (the Act) allows a maximum of one chapter or 10% of the pages of this work, whichever is the greater, to be reproduced and/or communicated by any educational institution for its educational purposes provided that the educational institution (or the body that administers it) has given a remuneration notice to Copyright Agency Limited (CAL) under the Act.

For details of the CAL licence for educational institutions contact:

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Telephone: (02) 9394 7600
Facsimile: (02) 9394 7601

Reproduction and communication for other purposesExcept as permitted under the Act (for example a fair dealing for the purposes of study, research, criticism or review) no part of this publication may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system, communicated or transmitted in any form or by any means without prior written permission. All inquiries should be made to the publisher at the address above.Cambridge University Press has no responsibility for the persistence or accuracy of URLs for external or third-party internet websites referred to in this publication and does not guarantee that any content on such websites is, or will remain, accurate or appropriate.

For Jarra, Jess, Matilda and Isabelle.


List of illustrations
1     First Meetings, Extraordinary Encounters
2     Van Diemen's Land: Settling in the enviable island
3     The Black War: The tragic fate of the Tasmanian Aborigines
4     An Indelible Stain?
5     The Triumph of Colonisation
6     The Politics of Van Diemen's Land
7     The Convict System
8     Post-penal Depression, 1856–70
9     Reform and Recovery
10    Federation and War
11    Between the Wars
12    Postwar Tasmania
13    Towards the Bicentenary


1.1   Portrait of George Augustus Robinson
2.1   Colonel George Arthur, Lieutenant-Governor
2.2   Pêche des Sauvages du Cap de Diemen
2.3   The Frenchman's Cap, by A. Hayman, a wood engraving that depicts the Central Highlands of Tasmania
2.4   My Harvest Home, by John Glover
3.1   Aborigines of Tasmania at Oyster Cove
5.1   View on the Macquarie River, Van Diemen's Land, near the ford at Argyle Plains
5.2   Salamanca Place
5.3   Hobart Town (Ile Van Diemen), dessine par LeBreton
6.1   Cessation of transportation celebrations, Launceston, 1853
7.1   Invalide Depot, Launceston
8.1   Mona Vale, with Blackman River in the foreground
8.2   ‘Panshanger’, the seat of Joseph Archer, Esquire
9.1   Mt Lyell Mine, Queenstown, 1900
9.2   Andrew Inglis Clark
11.1  Hydroelectric generators at Tarraleah Power Station, 1956
12.1  Photograph of Russell Falls taken by John Watt Beattie
13.1  Peter Dombrovskis’ famous photograph of Rock Island Bend on the Franklin River
13.2  The young Bob Brown, current parliamentary leader of the Australian Greens
13.3  The Franklin River upstream of the Irenabyss, taken in 1980 by Bob Brown


Like any writer I am greatly appreciative of the assistance I have received in Tasmania's libraries, archives and museums, and particularly in the University of Tasmania Library, the State Library of Tasmania, the Archives Office of Tasmania, the Queen Victoria Museum and Art Gallery, and the Tasmanian Museum and Art Gallery.

I need to express my respect to some of the major historians who have preceded me and especially those 19th century forebears Melville, West, Calder, Bonwick and Fenton, as well as more recent scholars such as Robson, Plomley and Townsley. But my greatest debt is to contemporary Tasmania scholars such as Roe, Petrow, Davis, Maxwell-Stuart, Boyce, Pybus, Alexander, Chapman and the many others, too numerous to mention, who have written articles in local history journals or books on a multitude of Tasmanian topics.

I have also benefited from many conversations with friends and acquaintances who find Tasmanian history fascinating and like nothing more than to share an anecdote or compare memories about growing up on the island; these conversations were often conducted with members of the diaspora in many parts of the world.

Finally, I should acknowledge my father, the late John Reynolds, a leading member of the local history scene for 50 years. He was the first person to awaken my interest in the past and who spoke about people such as George Arthur, Martin Cash and Tom Davey as though he had met them. He also talked to everyone he met about their own knowledge of island history and stored innumerable stories away in his ever-active mind. He was, as were many people of his generation, a Tasmanian patriot.

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