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The First Fleet

Date: 1937
Overall: 325 x 205 x 25 mm, 0.86 kg
Medium: Ink on paper, cloth
Credit Line: ANMM Collection
Classification:Books and journals
Object Name: Book
Object No: 00030858

User Terms

    One of Owen Rutter's most famous works 'The First Fleet' details the journey and objectives of the British First Fleet to Australia in 1788. It was compiled from original documents and contains extracts from the log of HMS SIRIUS. The book's publication date coincided with the 150th anniversary of British occupation in Australia and challenged established views on Australia's colonisation. Rutter argued Australia's settlement was not purely an answer to the overcrowding convict problem but the result of careful planning based on strategic, economic and political objectives.
    SignificanceThis limited edition book details the historic arrival of the First Fleet to Australia, an event that changed the face of the continent forever. At the time of its release in 1937 the book featured many unseen primary documents that challenged the preconceived notions of Australia's early convict past and the history of European settlement.
    HistoryGolden Cockerel Press was a successful limited edition publishing company which operated in London, England during the 1930s-1950s. They specialised in historical research and the reproduction of books, manuscripts and journals related to Australian and Pacific maritime history. 'The First Fleet: the Record of the Foundation of Australia from its Conception to the Settlement at Sydney Cove, compiled from the original documents in the Public Record Office, with extracts from the log-books of HMS SIRIUS' was one of the most popular editions released by Golden Cockerel Press. Only 375 editions were published.

    The First Fleet left Portsmouth, England in May 1787 consisting of the escort vessel HMS SIRIUS, the store ship HMS SUPPLY and the convict transports ALEXANDER, FRIENDSHIP, SCARBOROUGH, CHARLOTTE, LADY PENRHYN, PRINCE OF WALES, GOLDEN GROVE, FISHBURN and BORROWDALE. There were 1,478 people on the voyage including 778 convicts who were predominantly 'professional' criminals.

    The arrival of the First Fleet to Australia in 1788 marked a historic moment. Unlike other voyages of exploration and settlement such as that of the MAYFLOWER to North America in 1620, the First Fleet and the two Royal Navy vessels HMS SIRIUS and HMS SUPPLY reflected the official change in the British government’s attitude towards colonisation. Settlement in Australia was specifically an official government-sanctioned action by the British Royal Navy.

    Owen Rutter's work challenged the established view that Australia was colonised purely as a penal settlement. He stated that 'contrary to popular belief, the original plan which led to the foundation of Australia had at its object not a penal settlement in New South Wales but a new colony for the Loyalist planters of America whose lands had been confiscated after the Declaration of Independence in 1776'. Rutter also made allusion to references in the records concerning the development and utilisation of resources such as timber, hemp and flax in Australia and New Zealand.
    Additional Titles

    Primary title: THE FIRST FLEET

    Web title: The First Fleet

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