248 pages, b/w illustrations
The Enlightenment and the Origins of European Australia surveys some of the key intellectual influences in the formation of Australian society by emphasising the impact of the Enlightenment with its commitment to rational enquiry and progress – attitudes which owed much to the successes of the Scientific Revolution. The first part of The Enlightenment and the Origins of European Australia analyses the political and religious background of the period from the First Fleet (1788) to the mid nineteenth century. The second demonstrates the pervasiveness of ideas of improvement – a form of the idea of progress – originally derived from agriculture, but which were to shape attitudes to human nature in fields as diverse as education, penal discipline and race relations. Throughout, The Enlightenment and the Origins of European Australia highlights the extent to which developments in Australia can be compared and contrasted with those in Britain and in the USA.
"Gascoigne's book, which is exhaustively researched and gracefully written, investigates the systems of thought that provided the basis for political and social order in a society as bastard as a convict settlement. It is a masterly study of how the ideas of Locke, Bentham and Paine suffused the institutions of the colony."
- London Review of Books
"What makes Gascoigne's book such a useful and [...] enlightening work is his bringing together of all the important themes and issues that dominated colonial society and demonstrating the important role the Enlightenment had to play in them [...] provides an excellent insight into the intellectual underpinnings of colonial society."
- Journal of Australian Colonial History
"This is a good book: informative, well researched and eminently readable."
- Journal for Maritime Research
List of illustrations
Preface and Acknowledgements
Part I. Contexts
Part II. The Possibilities of Improvement
4. The earth and its fruits
5. Science and the land
6. Cultivation of the mind
7. Of crimes and punishments
8. Race and the limits of 'improvement'
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John Gascoigne is Associate Professor, School of History, University of New South Wales, Sydney and a Fellow of the Australian Academy of the Humanities.