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French Explorers And Aboriginal Australians

French Explorers And Aboriginal Australians

Author: Colin Dyer

“[The Aboriginal Tasmanians] seem to offer the most perfect image of pristine society … Their open and smiling expression reveals a happiness that has never been troubled by intrusive thoughts and unattainable desires.” Bruny d’Entrecasteaux (1793) “In comparing what we had now seen with what had before happened in [D’Entrecasteaux Channel] we derived … that it is not prudent to go among these people without sufficient means of defence against their attacks.” Francois Peron (1802) “In order to humour them in everything we showed them our chests … but only the doctor’s gave rise to astonishment. Being hairless, it caused great exclamations and even greater shouts of laughter. After satisfying themselves in this region, they passed on to our legs … they would very much have liked to see something else, but we did not think it advisable to show them.” Nicolas Baudin (1802) This highly readable account opens a fascinating window – and a fresh perspective –on the early European exploration of Australia. These French explorers and scientists kept journals, many of which, until very recently, remained obscure and untranslated. Their cultural insights are invaluable, sometimes shocking and always engaging. Here are to be found detailed descriptions of the Aboriginal peoples’ physical appearances, their clothing, nutrition, dwellings, fires, canoes and utensils along with attempts to understand their character and language. The Aboriginal observers, however, displayed an equally keen anthropological interest in these strange apparitions arriving on their shores. Turning the cultural telescope around, this volume provides an unexpected and revealing glimpse of the French travellers through Aboriginal eyes. This book, and its illustrations, have drawn extensively on the collections of Fryer Library at the University of Queensland. Review excerpts It is a valuable compendium of French descriptions and impressions of Aborigines nad a useful chronicle of ten extraordinary expeditions. Importantly, it includes uncited material, some of which Dyerhas translated himself. This arduous task is of immense value for fellow historians and interested readers, and the effort that has gone into it is evident in his 'Note on Vocabulary'. The illustrations that have been chosen are also admirable. Francois Peron's detailed sketches, Nicolas Petit's Tasmanian pictures and Jacques Arago's illustrations of Aboriginal traditional life are beautifully reprinted. — Tiffany Shellam, Australian National University in Aboriginal History 2005, Vol 29
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