[Read] ➪ Dancing with Strangers: Europeans and Australians at First Contact By Inga Clendinnen – Dolove.info
I love studying history I love it so much that I devote most of my weekdays to it so much that I spend a good chunk of my spare time and weekends trying to learn languages to help me with it so much that I can maybe, just maybe, see myself doing it for the rest of my life But in the nine years since I began studying it with a serious interest in Year 11 at high school , I have never found a book on history that I couldn t put down until now To be fair, Inga Clendinnen s Dancing with Strangers 2003 is muchthan just a book on history Part narrative reconstruction, part anthropological analysis, part personal essay, it takes the surviving textual records penned by the first British settlers in New South Wales and attempts to interpret the interactions between those settlers and the native inhabitants of Port Jackson, Botany Bay, Broken Bay and the surrounding areas from 1788 through to the early years of the nineteenth century In elegant, vivid prose that glides effortlessly across the main incidents under examination, Clendinnen paints a rich picture of the hardships of life for both native Australians and colonising British in this frontier society perched on what was then, to European minds at least, the very edge of the known world Thanks both to the author s style and the intrinsic interest of the subject itself, the story is riveting from the first page One of the real pleasures of this book comes from navigating the various perspectives that Clendinnen weaves throughout her version of the tale One moment the historian speaks, collating her numerous sources, citing colourful extracts from the private journals, public annals, letters and other documents of men like Governor Arthur Phillip, whom I realise now has been nothing but a semi legendary name to me since I was a child the next, the anthropologist takes charge, dissecting what these extracts tell us about British perspectives on Australian society and culture and what they might perhaps tell us about the Australians own views The historian has a practised eye for selecting passages that can prove most revealing and imaginatively provocative for non experts and general readers the anthropologist has a wonderful way with words and a rare ability to render her thought processes lucid and her conclusions intelligible I can quite honestly say that I have never enjoyed a historian s writing so much The only history books that have had anything near the same effect on me to date are the highly readable three volumes on the crusades by Steven Runciman a decent enough historian for his time, though his moralising approach and materialistic conclusions are outdated now , Peter Brown s beautifully written and scholarly though very dense reflections on the late antique early medieval world in The Rise of Western Christendom Triumph and Diversity 2013 3rd ed and the first part of Richard Evans trilogy on the rise and fall of the Nazi Party, The Coming of the Third Reich 2003 Despite the fact that Dancing with Strangers is so compelling, however, I did find myself struggling at times to accept all of Clendinnen s conclusions about the behaviour of the Australians and the intention behind this and even of the British themselves As a historian by training I am unfamiliar with and probably a little uneasy about the anthropological method of inferring meaning from human actions, rituals and interactions evenso when those actions have been recorded by, and therefore refracted through the interpretive outlooks of, strangers whose ability to grasp their significance is severely hampered, even non existent That said, Clendinnen does not attempt, at least as far as I can see, to suggest that her interpretation is absolutely correct, or that there is no room for others She always makes it clear usually by inserting the reassuring phrases in my view , I think , my opinion is when she is moving from the content of the texts themselves into her own efforts to decode them There is no programmatic agenda seeking to argue that her version of the story is iron clad and representative of how things actually were wie es eigentlich gewesen, von Ranke is supposed to have said In that sense I feel as if the subtitle in the edition I read is misrepresentative, and can only have been forced upon the book by the British publisher The True History of the Meeting of the British First Fleet and the Aboriginal Australians, 1788 I would be interested to know what Clendinnen herself thought or still thinks of that.Together with a brilliant piece Clendinnen wrote for the Quarterly Essay in 2006 The History Question Who Owns the Past , which I read a few days ago, Dancing with Strangers has reaffirmed my belief that studying history, reading about history, thinking about history, and most importantly, talking and writing about history, has a place in this world Even if their conclusions are thankfully susceptible to debate and refinement, as I believe many of Clendinnen s are and probably have been I know nothing about this field, so I have no idea , historians ultimate goal is or should be to expand and deepen human understanding As Clendinnen demonstrates in this book with great perception and skill, Every society is adept at looking past its own forms of violence, and reserving its outrage for the violence of others p 190 A statement that resonates particularly with the events of the past few weeks A few years after its publication, however, she wrote in her long essay My faith is that humans will injure each other less when they understand themselves and each other better It might be true that humans are impervious to reason and compassion, and are therefore unredeemable If they are, history is indeed bunk , because its intrinsic purpose is to increase the role of reason and compassion in this world I m still too young, inexperienced and probably idealistic to pay much attention to the arguments against this view But I will keep doing history until I m convinced that it is worthless All I can say for now is that books like Dancing with Strangers which remind us of the cultural chasms in the world past and present as well as the riches to be gained by crossing them prove that history has a whole lot to offer before it becomes truly bunk. Engrossing and often dramatic narrative of the first few years of contact between white settler invaders and the fish dependent Eora people of the harbour Competition for survival became almost as fraught as the continuing struggle for linguistic and cultural comprehension This collision of world views formed the basis of early colonial Sydney where the violent repression of convicts shocked and disgusted the Eora. Excellent Anyone interested in Australia history or the Melbourne School or Inga Clendinnen must read. There are quite a few books on the First Fleet Inga Clendinnen s focus on the interactions between the interloping British with the Australian inhabitants and tries to deduce the possible reasons for the behaviours, actions and reactions of the two totally different races She also provides an analysis of the five main men who documented their stays in Sydney and why they possibly wrote what they did.It is an important book, easily read. In Dancing with Strangers Inga Clendinnen, tells of the meeting between the British First Fleet and the Aboriginal Australians in 1788 It is a story of confusion, lack of understanding and ignorance on both sides However an air of tolerance seems to have prevailed and good will on both sides meant that for the first few years both the native Autralians and the convict colony managed to exist side by side Much of the early success is due to Commander Governor Phillip s determination to reach out and help his reluctant hosts Unfortunately following Governor Phillip s departure, greed took over and tragedy was inevitable.This was an interesting and informative book, about two groups of people ignorant of each others culture, language, aspirations, traditions and law who nevertherless managed to survive and enjoy a degree of friendship together. I cannot imagine that avivid or beguiling account of the origins of British Australia will ever be written an extraordinary achievement Robert ManneBecause we know the outcome, the story has a deep poignancy But Clendinnen does not just plod through the familiar sad story of oppression Hers is a lyrical account that draws us into its passionate heart New Zealand HeraldWonderfully brave and stylishly written sometimes provocative, but startling in the way it entertainingly refreshes our history Courier MailA masterful book, elegantly conceived and written with narrative brilliance Clendinnen is witty, incisively poetic and flawed with humanity AgeEnthralling, and masterful in its prose Clendinnen s characters come vividly to life in her poetically written and compelling story Toowoomba Chronicle I found this account of early contact history to be quite enjoyable easy to read, interestingly written and balanced Although I didn t agree with all of the authors conclusions I found it refereshing to find an author on Australian history that at least has a go at trying to deduce some of the motives of the Aboriginal people rather than just parrot the assumptions made by earlier writers Above all else it encourages the reader to have a think for themselves and even provides good notes as to source information so that they may look up the original materials and draw their own conclusions. An excellent ,well written book about the settlement of Australia based on original letters and journals I found this book very interesting and easy to read Each chapter is based on a person,event or some type of issue very logically presented It did help that I had read several other books about the same era but this is by far the best Her descriptions and attention to detail were major strengths I will now seek out some of her other works re Mayan and Aztec civilizations. In January , The First Fleet Arrived In New South Wales, Australia And A Thousand British Men And Women Encountered The People Who Would Be Their New Neighbors Dancing With Strangers Tells The Story Of What Happened Between The First British Settlers Of Australia And These Aborigines Inga Clendinnen Interprets The Earliest Written Sources, And The Reports, Letters And Journals Of The First British Settlers In Australia She Reconstructs The Difficult Path To Friendship And Conciliation Pursued By Arthur Phillip And The Local Leader Bennelong Baneelon That Was Ultimately Destroyed By The Assertion Of Profound Cultural Differences A Prize Winning Archaeologist, Anthropologist And Historian Of Ancient Mexican Cultures, Inga Clendinnen Has Spent Most Of Her Teaching Career At La Trobe University In Bundoora, Australia Ambivalent Conquests Maya And Spaniard In Yucatan Cambridge,And Aztecs An Interpretation Cambridge,Are Two Of Her Best Known Scholarly Works Tiger S Eye A Memoir, Scribner,Describes Her Battle Against Liver Cancer Reading The Holocaust Cambridge,Explores World War II Genocide From Various Perspectives A wise and wonderful book that is essential reading for all Australians.