The Settler Evolution: space, place and memory in early colonial Australia


  • Grace Karskens UNSW


colonial Sydney


Ideas and expectations about colonial space and the making and remaking of real places lie at the heart of the early Australian colonies. Over the past forty years, and especially in the last decade, scholars have recovered much of that lost world, a world of polyglot diversity, constant movement, economic social and cultural expansion, cross-cultural encounters, relationships and appropriations, extraordinary adaptations, myriad connections and overlaid human geographies. Yet in the later nineteenth century, the colonies were also profoundly shaped by discontinuities in memory, place and experience, as wave upon wave of new arrivals started new lives literally unaware of what had happened earlier, or how these places had come to be. The success of later settlers was built upon those earlier foundations, and yet false assumptions about ‘gaol colonies’ and ‘savages’, twinned with assertions of legitimate occupancy and entitlement, easily captured the narrative as well as the literal ground, and are still widespread in Australian historiography, popular history and heritage today.