Allen & Unwin
People of the River: Lost worlds of early Australia
Winner of the Australian History Prize in the 2021 NSW Premier’s History Awards
A landmark history of Australia's first successful settler farming area, which was on the Hawkesbury-Nepean River. Award-winning historian Grace Karskens uncovers the everyday lives of ordinary people in the early colony, both Aboriginal and British.
'A majestic book' - John Maynard
'Shimmering prose' - Tiffany Shellam
The settlers who took land on the river from the mid-1790s were there because of an extraordinary experiment devised half a world away. Modern Australia was not founded as a gaol, as we usually suppose, but as a colony. Britain's felons, transported to the other side of the world, were meant to become settlers in the new colony. They made history on the river: it was the first successful white farming frontier, a community that nurtured the earliest expressions of patriotism, and it became the last bastion of eighteenth-century ways of life.
The Aboriginal people had occupied Dyarubbin for at least 50,000 years. Their history, culture and spirituality were inseparable from this river Country. Colonisation kicked off a slow and cumulative process of violence, theft of Aboriginal children and ongoing annexation of the river lands. Yet despite that sorry history, Dyarubbin's Aboriginal people managed to remain on their Country, and they still live on the river today.
The Hawkesbury-Nepean was the seedbed for settler expansion and invasion of Aboriginal lands to the north, south and west. It was the crucible of the colony, and the nation that followed.
About the author
Grace Karskens is Professor of History at the University of New South Wales and a Fellow of the Australian Academy of the Humanities and is the author of The Rocks: Life in Early Sydney and The Colony: A History of Early Sydney .
Published September 2020
230mm x 170mm