The Contestation of Heritage: The Colonizer and the Colonized in Australia

Authored by: Roy Jones , Christina Birdsall-Jones

The Ashgate Research Companion to Heritage and Identity

Print publication date:  April  2008
Online publication date:  March  2016

Print ISBN: 9780754649229
eBook ISBN: 9781315613031
Adobe ISBN: 9781317043249


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Even before European colonization, the area now termed Australia was characterized by multiple identities and heritages and its indigenous inhabitants communicated through several hundred different languages. What these peoples had in common were the highly localized scales of their social, political and cultural organization, and their economic dependence on hunting, gathering and fishing. These indigenous populations were therefore neither sufficiently numerous, nor technologically or organizationally advanced enough to put up any massive resistance to a determined attempt by the European imperial powers to conquer or to settle their territories. Nevertheless, European, in this case British, colonization and settlement only occurred in the second ‘long wave’ (Taylor and Flint, 2000) of colonial expansion, largely during the nineteenth century, even though the adjacent, and wealthier, archipelago of Indonesia had excited considerable European attention centuries before. Searches for a comparably rich ‘Great South Land’ were unsuccessful and Australia’s ‘front door’ to Europe, the generally arid and navigationally dangerous coast of Western Australia, ‘attracted few and repelled many’ (Appleyard and Manford, 1980, 1). For most of the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, much of what the Europeans sought from the region – masts from the Norfolk Island pines and whale and seal products from the Southern Ocean (Blainey, 1968) – necessitated neither political annexation nor European settlement.

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