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By Inga Clendinnen

In January 1788, the 1st Fleet arrived in New South Wales, Australia and one thousand British women and men encountered the folks who will be their new associates. Dancing with Strangers tells the tale of what occurred among the 1st British settlers of Australia and those Aborigines. Inga Clendinnen translates the earliest written assets, and the studies, letters and journals of the 1st British settlers in Australia. She reconstructs the tough route to friendship and conciliation pursued by means of Arthur Phillip and the neighborhood chief 'Bennelong' (Baneelon) that used to be finally destroyed by means of the statement of profound cultural transformations. A Prize-winning archaeologist, anthropologist and historian of historical Mexican cultures, Inga Clendinnen has spent so much of her instructing occupation at l. a. Trobe collage in Bundoora, Australia. Ambivalent Conquests: Maya and Spaniard in Yucatan (Cambridge, 1989) and Aztecs: An Interpretation (Cambridge, 1995) are of her best-known scholarly works; Tiger's Eye: A Memoir, (Scribner, 2001) describes her conflict opposed to liver melanoma. interpreting the Holocaust (Cambridge, 2002) explores global battle II genocide from quite a few views.

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Extra info for Dancing With Strangers: Europeans and Australians at First Contact

Sample text

I suppose teachers everywhere tend to overestimate the effectiveness of their teaching, if only to avoid despair. But it was the moral challenge which most enthralled him. Given that these Australians were intelligent beings, capable of reciprocating trust and assessing consequences, they were also capable of being ‘civilised’ in the fullest (British) sense. Being fully confident that British superiority must have been obvious to all parties, he was able to interpret what were probably displays of Australian insouciance or tolerant courtesies extended to uncouth strangers as admiring recognitions of superiority.

None of them describes the extraordinary noises made by so many Australian birds: no reference to the souls-in-torment shrieking of the sulphur-crested cockatoo or the kookaburra’s Mrs Rochester laugh; no reference to the vocal pyrotechnics of the rufous whistler— although Tench does allow that ‘in the woods are various little songsters, whose notes are equally sweet and plaintive’. Most insulting of all, while Collins gives a careful description of the feathers of the lyrebird, which he thought a type of bird-of-paradise, he fails to mention its golden voice.

Although we might feel that his representations of, for example, the platypus or the wombat fall far short of capturing the creatures’ distinctive forms of life, we have to remember he was often drawing from a corpse or even from an emptied skin—although we have to remember too that the great George Stubbs, also working from a skin, could re-create a marvellously vivid kangaroo back in England. But Hunter’s birds are unfailingly marvellous and his written account is alive with images no one else thought to mention.

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