Van Diemen’s Land by James Boyce

1. First lines. 2. Published 2018. Black Inc Books. (First published 2008) 3. Van Diemen’s Land Hall, Sidney, fl. 1817-1860 London : Longman & Co., 1828 Tasmanian Archive and Heritage Office [No restrictions] via flickr 4. Group of natives of Tasmania By Robert Hawker Dowling [Public Domain] via Wikimedia 5. Governor Davey’s [sic] Proclamation to the Aborigines, 1816 [sic]. By Government of Van Diemen’s Land, original conception by Surveyor General George Frankland (edited from original scan by jjron – adjusted levels). – State Library of New South Wales, [Public Domain] via Wikimedia 6. Mr Robinson’s house on the Derwent, Van Diemen’s Land By John Glover [Public Domain] via Wikimedia
So much detail, and the documented evidence of massacres of Indigenous people makes very uncomfortable reading.

This is the history of Van Diemen’s Land, a penal settlement from 1802. It covers the first arrival of Europeans and the subsequent construction of a society primarily by convicts, and including the encounters with Indigenous people. The author describes it as an “environmental history”.

“Tasmania” represented the new society the free immigrants sought to superimpose on the convict homeland of Van Diemen’s Land.”

“Stored in the vaults of the Bird Collection of the British Natural History Museum since 1838 have been two Tasmanian emus, the only complete specimens of what was the island’s largest land animal. Like the distinct King Island and Kangaroo Island subspecies, the Tasmanian emu fell victim to a predator unknown before British settlement: the dog. The eggs, chicks and adult birds provided food for the human invaders and their canine companions who settled Van Diemen’s Land and it’s offshore islands from 1798. Few Tasmanian’s now know there was a Tasmanian emu.”

“It was not the environment that the free immigrants of the 1820s had trouble accepting, but the convicts. The beauty of the land was widely contrasted with the ugliness of its humanity.”

~Quotes from Van Diemen’s Land by James Boyce
  • The Age:Van Diemen’s Land is a fresh and sparkling account of the first generation of British settlement in Tasmania that also makes an important contribution to Australian colonial historiography. The product of seven years’ research and writing, and a longer time talking about and walking across the island, it focuses attention and admiration on the convicts and their children – Tasmania’s founding mothers and fathers.”
  • Sydney Morning Herald: “absorbing, strikingly revisionist history” … “Invigorated alike by passion, scholarship, skill at storytelling and bringing a not-altogether-lost world alive, Boyce’s Van Diemen’s Land is a triumph.”
  • Awards:
  • 2009 Winner Tasmania Book Prize;
  • 2009 Shortlist Prime Minister’s Literary Award;
  • 2009 Shortlist – Douglas Stewart Prize for Non-Fiction, NSW Premier’s Literary Awards;
  • 2010 Shortlist – Non-Fiction Award, Adelaide Festival Awards for Literature;
  • 2008 Shortlist – Nettie Palmer Prize for Non-Fiction, Victorian Premier’s Literary Awards;
  • 2008 Shortlist – The Prize for a First Book of History, Victorian Premier’s Literary Awards;
  • 2008 Shortlist – History Book Award, Queensland Premier’s Literary Awards;
  • 2008 Shortlist Australian History Prize, NSW Premier’s History Awards;
  • 2008 Shortlist – Newcomer of the Year, Australian Book Industry Awards.

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