Myths and memories: re-reading space and people in southern Western Australia through the lenses of travellers, 1850-1914

Cynthia Margaret Lane

Research output: ThesisDoctoral Thesis

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Abstract

This thesis examines the perceptions of European travellers about southern Western Australia between 1850 and 1914. Theirs was a narrow vision of space and people in the region, shaped by their individual personalities, their position in society, and the prevailing discourses and ideologies of the age. Christian, Enlightenment, and Romantic philosophies had a major influence on their responses to the land—its cultivation and conservation, and its aesthetic qualities—and on their views of colonial society—its class and ethnicity. The travellers perpetuated an idealised view of a colonised landscape, and a ‘pioneer’ community that eliminated class struggle and inequality, even though an analysis of their observations revealed otherwise. Nevertheless, although limited, their narratives are invaluable as a reflection of opinions, attitudes and knowledge prevalent during an age of imperialism. These travellers were economically secure, literate and educated: foundations which provide an insight into the way power and privilege, implicit in their writings, governed the way they imagined Western Australia in the colonial and immediate post-federation period. In total, the diaries, letters, journals and memoirs of forty-one travellers are analysed. The British travellers (including a Canadian, an Anglo-Indian, and three eastern-Australian colonists) toured with typical colonial attitudes towards overseas ‘possessions', their observations influenced by British opinions and policies.
Original languageEnglish
QualificationDoctor of Philosophy
Publication statusUnpublished - 2011

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