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The Past | The Previous

the birth of sydney a final look.

the view of sydney that flannery presents in this book is one not of politics, or of war, or luxury. it's the vision of hardship--the shark of mark twain's entry. (perhaps the best entry and i would like to find twain's book, actually.) life is hard, brutal, and, according to flannery, 'mateship was yet to develop in this nascent society.' considering that flannery has had to rely upon the diaries and letters of people who could write, thus mainly the soldiers sent from england, it is hard to see truly how the convicts interacted within this society--if they were as spread out and unfriendly among each other, as the upper class of people were to each and them. it is probable that this mateship--a term i dislike--did exist, as moorhouse writes, 'mateship almost certainly began with the behaviour of convicts to each other... anyone who ratted on a fellow convict to authority would later be killed by other prisoners, even if it meant biding their time for revenge.'

it is more possible that the divides between the two classes were as wide as they ever have been then, a class divide that splintered and grew as convicts became emancipists (and even that had it's class structure, from fully pardoned, expirees, partially pardoned and runaways) and the english men and women tried to have their upper class, and so on and so forth. a class structure still exists today, but is it so large? who is to say? at the same time of these class structures, many people in sydney were trying to emulate england, in their dress and manners. it is not until mark twain that the first account of sydney being like america can be first found, but it is possible that it had been noted earlier, when the gold rush began. gold changed both america and australia, i imagine.

flannery's book has many notable absentees: nothing of john maccarthur and the revolt he bought, though there is a mention of bligh's disposal, and of the alcohol trade. (alcohol made from peaches, apparently.) but there is nothing of the sheep trade he was responsible for, though there are some letters from elizabeth maccarthur, who talks about her happiness and the prosperity they are enjoying. she also seems quite devoted to the ill portrayed john, who duel, rip off someone, and dispose of a governor before ending up in the loonie bin.

nor do politics get much swing, and neither does the full force of racism, either.

the aborigines are dealt with a lot in flannery's book, and he portrays a culture adapting poorly to english occupation. (one of the interesting things to note, is that pretty far back, people have been aware that it is an occupation of their land.) there is none of the one of one fighting for sport that birmingham reports, though there is a big fight reported by one--though if this has been organised by the whites it is unclear. though given the numbers of them, i think this unlikely.

the aborigines are thought of as savages in the letters and diaries of the english, with reports of violence and rituals that involve the knocking out of teeth. but in all the letters there comes across a sense of something other than savagery, but mostly, in flannery's editorial hands, they come across less tan violent and more as curious. they also seem to want to adapt to english occupation, and it makes you wonder why there wasn't a more violent opposition to them in the beginning.

still.

that's basically flannery's book. the twain entry best sums it up.