Australia: The Quiet Continent

Australia: The Quiet Continent

Australia: The Quiet Continent

Australia: The Quiet Continent

Synopsis

The 1998 second edition of this valuable study of the growth of the Australian nation. Professor Pike's main theme is the sober hard-won progress of isolated colonies struggling to increase their population and pay their way. He tells of uneven advance, of success and failure, of windfall wealth. Most of all he tells of efforts of men to make themselves secure in a land starved of capital and private investment. This edition includes developments since 1958. Pike surveys important political events in South East Asia since the mid-1950s, in particular, Australia's involvement in the defence of Malaysia and in Vietnam. The invasion of Australia's open spaces by men and machines in search of minerals was perhaps the most exciting development of the 1960s. The success of these excavations and of the remarkable urban and industrial growth and expansion of Australian agricultural production in the 1970s and 1980s are also explored.

Excerpt

Most Australian history is about landsmen. Most of their novels, films and art depict the lonely outback, and the wide open spaces are supposed to have made an air-minded nation. Nine out of ten Australians, however, live on the coastal fringe, mostly in crowded cities. Their continent separates two large oceans, and twelve thousand miles of sand, cliff and swamp define their earthy boundaries. Their beaches and bronzed life-savers are popular, but they have no sea-faring tradition. the ships that carry their oversea cargoes and eager travellers are mostly built in old-world ports and manned by old-world crews. Adventurous boys do not run away to sea; they go bush instead. the great ocean wastes set few Australians dreaming, yet the sea that isolates them from the rest of the world has helped to shape their history.

Twice as far from England as South Africa and with no near neighbour such as Canada has, Australia is geographically an extension of South-east Asia. in bygone ages when sea levels were low, Australia's northern shore was separated from the Asian mainland only by narrow straits that hindered the passage of animals, but not of migrating tribes. East of the deep Timor Trench, the present Arafura Sea and Torres Strait were dry, and a few early arrivals even reached Tasmania by land. Some fifteen thousand years ago rising sea levels stopped migration and isolated Australia. While the old world progressed, the sea guarded the mystery of the southern continent and held its native people in stone-age bondage. When the sea at last gave up its secret, the first comers from Europe were not impressed by the uninviting northern front that Australia turned towards the old world. When colonization began in 1788 at Sydney, much of the continent's coast was still unknown. Later exploration by sea proved that . . .

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