Australia Imagined: Views from the British Periodical Press

M A R G I N: life & letters in early Australia, November 2006 | Go to article overview

Australia Imagined: Views from the British Periodical Press


AUSTRALIA IMAGINED Views from the British Periodical Press 1800-1900 Perth, University of Western Australia Press, 7005

You could not be more nineteenth century Australia than this book. Periodicals or Magazines were a most important part of British culture during the century. British ideas and culture from 'home' were exported to the various British colonies round the world at regular intervals. Australia was no exception and most of the well to do residents had their subscriptions to periodicals like Household Words, Edinburgh Review, Fraser's Magazine The Athenaeum and Fortnightly Review to mention a few of the better known periodicals.

The editors of this book Judith Johnson and Monica Anderson must have had great fun searching and reading this wide range of articles both serious and amusing on many subjects related to Australia. There are seven or eight articles on each subject ranging from transportation, The Aboriginals, British emigration and letters home to Colonial life, women and men, the Chinese and Federation. In effect the selection of articles presents a picture of Australian society as seen by the British (English) during our Colonial period. The inclusion of some articles on the move to Federation brings to a satisfactory conclusion the view of colonial Australia.

The introduction states that the articles are given full bibliographical details making it relatively easy for any reader to follow up particular articles. There is a listing of further reading and a limited index. The names of many Australian writers appear in the list of further reading which does include John Lang which was naturally the first part for me to look up but not through the index. In fact the index contains few names. It is easy to criticise things left out but it is more important to praise the things that are included.

One is an article by Catherine Helen Spence, for example 'An Australian's impressions of England, 1866.' Interestingly she states that 'Although our [Australian] institutions are different, and our social distinctions less marked, we are still emphatically English and it will take several generations before we can have a distinct national character of our own.

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