American Collections blog

11 posts categorized "Australia"

20 August 2012

Breadfruit, Rum and Mutinies: the career of William Bligh


Breadfruit [store]

 Plant accommodation on HMS Bounty [BL Shelfmark: RB.31.c.503(1)].

I’ve been doing further reading on Australian history this week and you can’t cover early nineteenth- century Australia without coming across William Bligh. Bligh became Governor of New South Wales in 1806 but prior to this he had already undertaken a number of missions for the British Government in European, Caribbean, Atlantic and Pacific waters. One of these missions provides Team Americas with another blog on the links between Australasia and the Americas.

While in Tahiti as part of Cook’s first Pacific voyage, Joseph Banks noted that the local Uru, or breadfruit, had potential as a source of cheap, high energy food that could be cultivated in British colonies. Banks successfully promoted his idea after returning to London, and Bligh was dispatched with HMS Bounty to acquire plants for use in the Caribbean. After one mutiny, a trip back to London (via Koupang) and two trips to Tahiti for specimens, Bligh finally delivered the breadfruit plants to Jamaica.

Breadfruit [illus]
Illustration of breadfruit in Bligh’s A Voyage to the South Sea [BL Shelfmark: : RB.31.c.503(1)]

Following success as a Naval captain in Europe, and having earned Nelson’s favour at the Battle of Copenhagen, Bligh was appointed Governor of New South Wales. Arriving in 1806 Bligh immediately had to deal with the New South Wales Corps, the standing regiment for the colony which had set up a decent sideline in profiteering illegal trade items – namely, rum. Eventually this led to the 'Rum Rebellion' of 1808 and Bligh was forced to take another ignominious trip on the sea (this time to Hobart).

Breadfruit [map]
Map of Bligh’s journey, in A Voyage to the South Sea [BL Shelfmark: : RB.31.c.503(1)].

While mutinies grab popular attention, Bligh's career offers a good example of the way in which many individuals in the British Navy helped to developed global networks of exchange and control which underpinned the British Empire. He’s also a case study of what binds Team Americas and Australasia together.

I’ve noted in an earlier blog the Library’s collections on Cook and his expedition, and there is also a significant collection on the expeditions of Bligh; for starters see, A Voyage to the South Sea, 1792 [BL Shelfmark: RB.31.c.503(1)] and A Narrative of the Mutiny on Board His Majesty’s Ship Bounty, 1790 [BL Shelfmark: G.3066].

[PJH]

29 June 2012

Notes on the Beginning of a Rivalry: England vs Australia

 England 11 (1861-62)

First England Eleven in Australia, from ‘Seventy-One Not Out’ [Shelfmark: 07905.g.30]

Ok, we'll come clean. Team Americas is actually Team Americas AND Australasia but there aren't enough of us to keep a regular blog going on Australasian topics. Since Dr Phil is now having to cover the area due to Nicholas's departure to pastures new (literally - he's gone off to farm in France!), he's sneaking in this post on one of his favourite subjects. And if you're interested in things Australasian, we do have a Twitter account @BL_Australasia.

Given today is the beginning of Australia’s One Day International Series in England it seems appropriate to interrupt the blog’s usual service for some notes on Australia and England’s cricket heritage.

The focus here is very much on beginnings as the Library holds works relating to both the first England tour of Australia and vice versa. The first England touring eleven to visit Australia did so in 1861-62 and their matches are recounted later, in 1899, by William Caffyn in ‘Seventy-One Not Out’ [Shelfmark: 07905.g.30]. This wasn’t quite the England tours we are used to seeing; the team was gathered by a commercial sponsor (Messrs Spiers and Pond), the team itself was not exactly ‘all-England’ (most of the North declined to tour) and they played Australia teams of eighteen and twenty-two players.

The tour was a success as it drew large, enthusiastic crowds to every game and it proved that subsequent tours would both be of enjoyable quality and financially viable. Caffyn seems pleased with the quality of the matches but devotes an awful lot of his narrative to the activities of Australia’s mosquitoes – it would seem they plagued him more than the opposing bowlers. Subsequent England tours to Australia would follow, although the fractious relationship which has defined this rivalry was soon to develop.

Sydney Cricket Ground (1898)
Sydney Cricket Ground, 1898, from ‘Seventy-One Not Out’ [Shelfmark: 07905.g.30]

Australian teams would soon be visiting England too, although the first tour (that of the Australian Aboriginal Cricket Team) is only recorded in Library holdings such as Wisden (Shelfmark: RH.9.X.1553) and the cricket-minded newspapers. The 1878 tour of England, which was captained by D. W. Gregory and also played in the United States during these travels (and is thus the best link to this blog’s usual content I could make) has marginally better representation, including a lengthy discussion of the impending tour in the Melbourne-published Conway’s Australian Cricketers’ Annual [Shelfmark: P.P.2638.fa].

Of course, the 1878 tour saw a strong Australian team begin to build the reputation and legacy which stands today. While this post merely charts some beginnings the Library’s collections of cricket publications, newspapers and other materials tell the history of what was to come; Ashes, Dons, Bodylines and all.

[PJH]

15 February 2012

Guest Post: a side of Australasian studies

A General Chart of New Holland
'A General Chart of New Holland, including New South Wales & Botany Bay', in 'An Historical Narrative of the Discovery of New Holland and New South Wales'

As I mentioned in a previous post on the Terra Nova expedition, 2011 was a busy year for the Americas section of the Library and one of the other developments was being joined by our colleague responsible for Australasian Studies. Unfortunately, Nicholas has now left the Library to enjoy the warmer climes of southern France and so the rest of us from Americas Studies are doing our best to direct readers interested in researching the area for the time being. This being the case, we thought we'd start the best way we know how - blogging.

The Library has a notable collection of materials relating to Australia, New Zealand and the Pacific Islands and we aim to show a selection of the historical works we have as 'guest posts' on the Americas blog. For today's post I happened to be looking at the voyage of Captain Cook to the west coast of Canada and thought the Australian materials included in the same volumes would make a good first Australasian post.

A Man of Van Diemen's Land
'A Man of Van Diemen's Land', contained in the supplementary plates to 'A Voyage to the Pacific Ocean'

Edited by John Douglas, 'A Voyage to the Pacific Ocean' (shelfmark: 10025.bbb.22) has a supplementary volume of plates and charts compiled during the journey, held at shelfmark, C.180.h.11. These charts and plates cover various parts of Cook's expedition and therefore range from Australia to Nootka Sound and illustrate the landscape, fauna and peoples encountered. The above, 'A Man from Van Diemen's Land' is an example of the illustrations included in the volume which charts the diversity of societies and environments encountered.

The Library's collections contain many materials relating to Cook's voyages, including books, maps and manuscripts. Another item I called up was the 1786 publication, 'An Historical Narrative of the Discovery of New Holland and New South Wales' (shelfmark: 1446.c.19). The piece is a much smaller, highly edited account of Cook's expedition which happens to contain the rather nice map seen at the top of this post. Given the amount of material the Library holds relating to Cook's expeditions it is tempting to keep posting highlights from the myriad publications and manuscripts in coming weeks, but rest assured a host of notable collection items on various subjects will be on display in subsequent guest posts.

[PJH]

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