Land, speculation and the early Nineteenth Century settler mentality

Research output: Contribution to conferenceAbstractpeer-review


This paper proposes that ‘Settler Cities’ form a distinct subset of the larger category of colonial cities by virtue of the relationships that they have with land. Case studies of Australian cities will be used to examine the premise that land acquisition – in the overarching imperial sense and as personal property – was the imperative driving governments and individuals to invest in settlement schemes having global impact. Land was thus territory to be acquired; as well as a commodity to be occupied, capitalised upon and improved, after which it became a kind of currency entitling owners to identity and other privileges. The ensuing rapid disposal of land in new world settlements saw the advent of and growth in urban environments that was monumental at best and devastating at worst.

At the same time, land was figuratively and lyrically settled through production of vast quantities and diverse forms of literary and pictorial representation. The contention of this paper is that the economic (and political) appetite for land acquisition was matched by an equally motivating aesthetic attraction to landscape, and that these desires can be understood as emanating from a common speculative impulse.

This paper focuses upon speculation as a mechanism powerfully influencing the construction not only of settler cities but perhaps, first and foremost, of the settler mentality in early Nineteenth Century Britain and Australia. As an extension of this my inquiry looks at possible links between the settler mentality and the suburban mindset that emerged almost contemporaneously in Britain and Australia (as well as the United States). It ultimately examines whether ‘speculation’ – encompassing economic and artistic practices and encouraging tourism and migration – played a role in generating a transnational settler-suburban society, and whether a dominant speculative sensibility forms one of the key distinctions of settler environments.

Original languageEnglish
Number of pages11
Publication statusUnpublished - 2016
Event13th International Conference on Urban History: European Association of Urban History Conference: Reinterpreting Cities - University of Helsinki, Helsinki, Finland
Duration: 24 Aug 201627 Aug 2016
Conference number: 13


Conference13th International Conference on Urban History: European Association of Urban History Conference
Abbreviated titleEAUH
Internet address


Dive into the research topics of 'Land, speculation and the early Nineteenth Century settler mentality'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this