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France Australe : a study of French…

France Australe : a study of French explorations and attempts to found a…

by Leslie Ronald Marchant

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For many years the history of Australia was Anglo-centric; although some regard was given to the Dutch accidental discovery of the western coast, Torres' fortuitous passage through the strait that carries his name, and French activity in the late 1700s and early 1800s, the focus has been on Cook's discovery of eastern Australia, the first settlement with convicts by the English, the mapping of the coastline by Flinders and the subsequent settlement around the rim of the island.

This landmark book looks at the story from the French perspective. The author delved into many of the French archives, revealing any details of voyages of scientific and navigational discovery by de Gonneville, de Lozier, Dufresne, Baudin, Hamelin, D'Entrecastreaux, Freycinet, Bouganville and D'Urville. Firstly, the hunt for search for the southern land, then the missed opportunities of Baudin and the remarkable activities led by Hamelin in mapping and exploring the southwest of western Australia and Shark Bay, and finally the search for a suitable penal colony. In the end, before the English realised it, they abandoned plans to send convicts to Australia, and focussed on New Zealand. In the meantime, by then out-of-date English fears of the French led to them taking possession of western Australia and forming a settlement in Albany.

The book is rich with detail, with many maps and images. Unfortunately the reproduction is not as good as it could be. There could also be minor quibbles with the editing with the text, but that does not really take away from this work. The last 120 or so pages are filled with extra maps and images, bibliography, and most remarkably a list of almost 250 geographic landmarks in Australia that were either named my the French explorers, or later named in honour of them. ( )
1 vote robeik | Mar 1, 2012 |
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