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Wikipedia:WikiProject Military history/News/November 2018/Book reviews

< Wikipedia:WikiProject Military history‎ | News‎ | November 2018
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The Sydney Wars: Conflict in the Early Colony 1788–1817

4.0/5 stars

By Peacemaker67

This is a well-presented and readable book that has an interesting take on the first thirty years of the Australian frontier wars in the colony of New South Wales, specifically the Greater Sydney region, now home to the largest city in Australia. The author is Stephen Gapps, currently a curator at the Australian National Maritime Museum, who has previously won a couple of awards for his work on the history of the Sydney region. This is his fourth book.

Gapps tracks a conflict that involved, by conservative estimates, the deaths of at least 80 colonists and a similar number of Aboriginal Australians between 1788, when the colony was established, and 1817, when the conflict in this region subsided and moved to the expanding frontier. This does not take into account the more than 300 Aboriginal deaths from smallpox that followed soon after the arrival of the First Fleet and provided the colonists with a short respite from the constant attacks. Gapps emphasises that these 160 deaths were part of colonial resistance warfare, and were not criminal actions or first-contact misunderstandings. He highlights the fact that in this time period, there were 162 documented successful raids conducted by Aboriginal people on the settlers of the colony; classic guerilla warfare aimed at destroying food, supplies, livestock and farms, which in several cases limited colonial expansion for a time. The fighting covered in the book includes the Hawkesbury and Nepean Wars.

Aboriginal warriors created a state of terror and fear among the colonists, which resulted in a significant military response, led by the 1st Battalion, 73rd Regiment of Foot under Governor Lachlan Macquarie between 1810 and 1814, and then the 46th (South Devonshire) Regiment of Foot from 1814 to 1817, that largely struggled to come to grips with an elusive enemy. It also resulted in a militarisation of the entire colony, including: changing the way new land grants were allocated on the edges of the settled areas; and the formation of militia and armed settler groups to oppose the resistance of the original inhabitants to the establishment and expansion of the colony. Gapps' analysis is convincing and well-argued from the perspective of a military historian. He gives the Aboriginal warriors a sense of agency that has been lacking in many other accounts of early frontier conflict. The book is a valuable contribution to the examination of the early years of conflict between the Aboriginal people of the region and the British colonists who arrived in 1788. It is definitely worth a read, particularly by anyone who is not yet convinced about the Australian frontier wars being an integral part of Australian military history.

Publishing details: Gapps, Stephen (2018). The Sydney Wars: Conflict in the Early Colony 1788–1817. NewSouth Publishing. ISBN 978-1-74223-214-0.

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