THE ROAD TO BOTANY BAY: An Exploration of Landscape and History by Paul Carter

THE ROAD TO BOTANY BAY: An Exploration of Landscape and History

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Editor of the Melbourne Age Monthly Journal, Carter here provides an ambitious, idiosyncratic reconsideration of Australia's exploration and settlement. Carter's aim is to jettison the conventional, cause-and-effect orderliness of settlement history--imperial history--to reconstruct a sense of how Australia presented itself to its first Europeans explorers. Hoping that this ""spatial history"" will at least in part avoid the trappings of empirical history--history, the author claims, that is often more ""settled"" than the country itself--Carter attempts to recapture the phenomenon of early Australian travel. He begins with a consideration of place-names and what those might suggest about the experience of early journeying--arguing for example, that Captain Cook's Australian place-names were tools of traveling, part of a process rather than the net result of travel. Before there were ""places,"" Carter believes, placenames served as mental signposts marking off distance traveled and distance to go--""airy barriers."" Similarly, the journals of early explorers provided cerebral mapping of the landscape, relating disparate elements and providing a continuity lacking in the environment itself; and Carter suggests that if the seamlessness of explorers' journals is literary illusion, then a lot of history on which they're based is as well. Carter also sees the network of early Australian roads as providing access to the country as it was first experienced: traveling down those roads today, one doesn't explore Australia so much as relive those first journeys. Not simply a history of exploration, but a test program in rereading and reexperiencing history that, if lacking the clarity of the imperial histories Carter disdains, at least has the advantage of originality.

Pub Date: April 13th, 1988
Publisher: Knopf