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The History of New Holland From Its First Discovery in 1616 To The Present Time

Date: 1787
Overall: 220 x 140 mm, 0.5 kg
Medium: Ink on paper
Credit Line: ANMM Collection
Classification:Books and journals
Object Name: Book
Object No: 00000368
Place Manufactured:London

User Terms

    This book, titled 'The History of New Holland from its First Discovery in 1616, to the Present Time', was published coinciding with the First Fleet expedition in London, 1787. Although it has been tentatively attributed to William Eden because his 'Principles of Penal Law' appear in the preface, the book's author remains unknown. The 254-page book comprises two volumes with detailed plans for colonial settlement in Botany Bay. It contains two fold-out hand-coloured maps, 'A General Chart of the Passage from England to Botany Bay in New Holland 1787, drawn and engraved by I. Andrews' and 'A New Chart of New Holland on which are delineated New South Wales and a Plan of Botany Bay, drawn and engraved by Jno. Andrews'.
    SignificanceThis book is an important record of how Australia was conceptualised just before the arrival of the First Fleet. It charts the first European landing in 1606 and Captain James Cook's navigations across Australia's east coast in 1770. The preface provides a colourful insight into how Australia was seen as an 'extraordinary' country; as one that had only been 'partially explored' because of its 'immense extent'. This further indicates the purpose of the text, noting that earlier accounts of the 'appearance, inhabitants, and productions' of New Holland, although 'curious and authentic...are not easily procured at present.'
    HistoryThe idea for a British colony in New South Wales had been discussed since 1779 when it was raised by Sir Joseph Banks whose opinion, having accompanied Captain Cook in 1770, carried much weight. Whilst initially it was not suggested as a penal settlement, this had changed by 1784 to include British convicts whose numbers were causing increasing problems for the British government, especially as they could no longer be sent to North America.
    This book, published immediately prior to the First Fleet's departure, made a strong case for the exporting of convicts. In its opening pages the author states "This much however, may be asserted with safety, that the maintenance of the convicts at home has been attended with great expense, without answering the end of exemplary correction; and that though a frigate was sent to the coast of Africa, for discovery, no proper place could be found for the purpose of exonerating this country of its obnoxious members.
    The present plan seems therefore to be the only experiment which bids fair to answer the wishes that have long been entertained on this head by the sober part of the community; and, when it is considered as an experiment, the objective of those who exclaim against founding a colony upon the infamous assemblage of exiled felons, will fall to the ground. Supposing that government had chosen to embrace the single purpose of forming a settlement at Botany Bay, they would be justly censurable in inviting the industrious and reputable artisan to exchange his own happy soil for the possession of territory, however extensive, in a part of the world as yet so little known. But criminals, when their lives or liberties are fortified to justice, become a forlorn hope, and have always been judged a fair subject for hazardous experiments, to which it would be unjust to expose the more valuable members of the state" (page IX).

    Although the book continues on to outline the natural benefits of New South Wales and future potential, its primary aim was to support the idea of penal outpost.

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