by Humphrey McQueen

And in a charge of bubbles we go about,
Veering in towards drama and Cape Howe;
Eyried in mist we feel the brush of doubt
As stars congeal, the air thickens. There are warnings now.

Francis Webb, Disaster Bay (c.1970).

Whoever it was who reached what we now call Australia some 50,000 or so years ago they were not ‘discovering’ this continent in the sense employed with the re-expansion of Europe when the word gains several of its current connotations. More is involved in deciding whether it is appropriate to speak of ‘discovery’ than a gap of 50,000 years. Incompatible ways of living fall between a primary communalism and an emerging capitalism, one local in its satisfactions, as Lt James Cook assumed, the other global in the appetites he served.

Only by sounding the levels in ‘the Age of Discovery’ will it become possible to apprehend the social practices behind saying that ‘Cook discovered Australia.’ Although this essay sets out from Europe’s spatial expansion, those explorations have to be cast against discoveries in every direction, across the heavens and in techniques for learning, for warfare and for commerce, each domain compounding shocks of the new. The initiating of collaborative research during the 1600s consolidated world-shaking discoveries from compass, telescope, printing and gunpowder[1] that opened ways to the regime of expanding reproduction we know as capitalism.[2] Hence, ‘discover’ deserves to be treated after the manner that Bernard Smith employs with ‘Vision’ not only for landscape painters and Romantic poets, but for Natural Philosophers and Political Economists. To confine ‘discovery’ to the significance of one converted collier during eight weeks along 2000 kms of coastline is to be becalmed ‘within the context of no context.’[3]

The politics of language

Keywords around the master narrative of ‘discovery’ are ‘civilisation’, ‘culture’, ‘colonise’, ‘nation’ and ‘treaty’, navigated through drifts in the practice of ‘history’, ‘geography,’ ‘science’ and ‘art’.[4] With the coming to dominance of the form of capital that must expand for its survival, our decalogue attracted their present though contested significances. Since dictionary entries are neither eternal, nor natural nor universal, ‘usage’ and ‘significance’ seem preferable to ‘meaning’ or ‘definition’, each with its essentialist weighting.

These ten terms capture but also affect our views of how the first peoples were, are and should be. As much as they dispute our interpretations of them and of ourselves, they will, in their spirit of ‘two-ways’, select the bits they need as they have with the Bible, guitars, Kriols and Toyotas. No cultural knowledge is mapped in one’s blood or genes.[5] Meme is a metaphor. Deborah Cheetham’s ability to sing opera in several languages is not to be found in the miniscule portion of the genome that permits a spread of physical appearances within our species.[6]

The stereotype of a Noble Savage is no less a bar to embracing a common humanity than is the comic coon or cannibal.[7] The black person’s burden now is to be spiritual, artistic and ecological to exorcise the bad faith of the ‘White Aborigine’ who is but the latest variant of those whom Galarrwuy Yunupingu accuses of knowing ‘nothing of our land or its people. There is always someone who wants us to be like them …’[8] No surprise then that newspaper reports and museum displays picture the shelters around the fish traps in Victoria’s south-west like villages in Merrie England.[9] Inclusion proves as perilous as exclusion when to be recognised as equal requires the surrender of distinctiveness. Assimilation at the level of concepts validates a cultural cannibalism.

Discovering Captain Cook

The first peoples continue to respond to the wake from Cook’s voyaging in ways which are as varied as they are fluid. Across the Top End, from East Arnhem Land to the W.A. border, syncretic cosmologies record creativity from the woof and weave of Dreamings through secular and theological encounters with the invaders. One will claim that ‘Captain Cook is my ancestor.’[10] In the north-west corner of the Northern Territory, the Yarralin people know him as an immoral man, whose bad Law continues to block their practice of the good law. Some stories turn elements from the bad law into songs of resistance and thereby reveal a reasoning more dialogical than the invaders’ rule of either/or. For instance, if Jesus ‘saves’ the whole world, he leaves no country for Aborigines, but if he takes only the ‘outer, productive portion’ he might ‘come to some accommodation.’[11] In east Arnhem Land, the Rembarrnga sing of two Cooks, one siding with them and the other leading the invaders. That first Cook came with two wives, a donkey and a nanny goat, bringing the axe, blankets, calico, paddles and steel knives. He wrestled with Satan, won, and cast the devil into the Sydney Harbour tunnel.[12]

Of the half who identify as Christian, some believe that their god has always been here while others laud Cook as ‘The Bringer of Light’ in the Gospels. Stan Grant came to appreciate the Enlightenment heritage, in which Cook, Banks and Phillip formed their pictures of the relations between the natural and social orders.[13] Some believers see in Cook that other Light-bringer – Lucifer. The 2019 burning of artifacts as pagan idols at Broome is one extremity from forty years of Pentecostal proselytising.[14]


How nineteenth-century Europeans re-conceptualised history, geography, science, art and culture widened the gulf between pre-contact indigenes and their unsettlers, putting those practices further at odds with how many indigenes still deal with the flows between their material and mental worlds.

History: Both sides of the frontier use ‘history’ for the past but also for how past activities are remembered, a dualism productive of much befuddlement between sensuous human practices and the ways in which some are memorialised in song, chronicled in Cook’s journals, and mass produced nowadays by Netflix. History with a capital-H was fashioned as one more outcome from the acceptance of evolutionary approaches which edged the ‘historical’ towards the ‘transitory’ thereby installing change, though not its pace, as the sole constant, a rule as disruptive at the Royal Society and Berlin Academy as its enforcement here proved for Old Men of High Degree.

In Western Europe, new manners of exposition and analysis spelt the ‘Death of the Past’ from around 1800. Within the academies, Lutheran theologians subjected both Testaments to a critical exegesis,[15] out of which came hermeneutics as well as the techniques that, from the mid-1830s, Leopold Von Ranke applied to the Hapsburg and Papal Archives. In working through archival boxes, he stepped away from superstition and perjured prejudices in the sectarian accounts or miraculous explanations.

Ludwig Feuerbach in 1841 cut away the sustaining hand of a Creator in favour of humankind’s capacity to recreate our worlds.[16] Anthropos has expelled Theos. Marx and Engels can now establish class conflict as pivotal in their explaining how we become what we do. Henceforth, historical materialists will oppose theological Idealisms by insisting upon continuities between our species, other animals and the whole of the natural world, while emphasising ‘a discontinuity between human society and animal groups’ to counter allegations that ‘biology is destiny.’[17]

In 1897, two scholars of Medieval England summarise ‘what has been going on in the line of historical study’ during the nineteenth century.[18] Paul Vinogradoff, soon to be Oxford Professor of Jurisprudence, asks ‘whether anything at all like’ the alertness to social forces which distinguishes de Tocqueville’s L’Ancien Regime (1756) ‘could have been produced even in the eighteenth century,’ when dynastic doings pervade Voltaire’s Siecle de Louis XIV (1751).[19] The Cambridge Professor of the Laws of England, J.M. Maitland, quips that the day when scholars could attempt to ‘rear the fabric of political and constitutional history without first laying an economic foundation … is passing.’[20]

Although human beings have had some 50,000 years of history here in the sense of a past of re-makings, those experiences cannot bring indigenous ways of remembering into line with methods not discovered until around 1750 with the Scottish Enlightenment. Despite the inequities imposed by older indigenous males on younger ones and on almost all women, the first peoples had not endured the pasts inflicted on the vast majority of Europeans through the 6,000 years of class-based systems. Consequently, the Australians could not know capital-H History as a Vico or a Ferguson develops that practice to analyse chattel-slavery, serfdoms and wage-slavery.

Neither did the first peoples have an economy, any more than did the Ancient Greeks, who, like them, knew only forms of household management, Aristotle’s crematistics.[21] Cambridge Professor of Ancient History M.I. Finley explains why our notion of ‘economy’ has no place in analysing the Ancient world. ‘Market’, for instance, ‘is untranslatable into Greek or Latin’ when it is used for other than a trading place. Aristotle, whose programme was to codify the branches of knowledge, wrote no Economics.’[22] By contrast, and in what Marx appreciates is ‘a wonderful feat of logical acumen,’ Captain Robert Torrens asks us to believe that the accumulation of capital began when an Aborigine first picked up a rock to throw at a kangaroo.[23] Such Robinsonades obliterate the differences between a mode of production based on the casting of stones and one which extracts, processes and markets ore bodies from Moonta, with that undertaking’s financial, mechanical, and commercial ramifications. In like vein, Adam Smith’s remark about ‘the general disposition to truck, barter, and exchange’[24] is extrapolated into an immutable condition, thereby drying up an ocean of differences between the barter of ochre from Bookartoo and the global marketing of paints by Dulux.[25]

Archeological digs reveal little enough about technology and cannot resurrect states of mind. To get around these impediments, investigators sought new ways to discover What Happened in History (1942) as Man Makes Himself (1936), the titles of best-sellers by the Australian Marxist, V. Gordon Childe, founder of the discipline Pre-History, now suspect because ‘prehistoric’ sounds as if its actors are Neanderthals, as many were.[26] Even if Aboriginal historical materialists[27] aim at a critical analysis of only the 400 years of European contact, they will have to provide more than a replica of capital-H History.

As a start, how should they deal with the Cook fables from the Top End? A literary critic might say that the judgements are psychologically valid for their re-tellers, though not verifiable for outsiders. That approach can be extended by reading ‘Cook’ as the symbol for all invaders, not as an individual who never set foot on Arnhem Land, where Cook ‘business’ is validated today as expressing the actualities from invasion and resistance. They are ‘facts’ about post-1770 events. They do not confront ‘discovery’ with the expansions of Europe and of capital.

Geography: For similar reasons, indigenous time-space continua are not capital-G Geography, a discipline institutionalised in Britain when pressed into service for the war to end all wars during yet one more resurgence of the strife out of which the Age of Discovery had been born.[28] Then, as now, war was commerce by other means. From 1815, Britain’s vanquishing of its European rivals, France and Spain, after four centuries of global conflict, combined with its technological leads, let it enforce ‘free-trade’ on the world, with a side-line in gun-boat diplomacy around Asia. In 1835, that pander of profit-takers, Dr Andrew Ure could rejoice that ’Nations … no longer send troops to fight on distant fields, but fabrics to drive before them those of their old adversaries in arms, and to take possession of a foreign mart.’[29] However, commerce, like plunder and piracy, depends on there being something to exchange. Those values come by applying labour to the wealth of nature.

Once socialists in the 1820s started to publicise Ricardo’s acceptance that the exploitation of labour is the source of added value,[30] the system’s apologists fled the field of production, abandoning its examination to a scatter of natural scientists, later grouped under the rubric of geographers. One such was the farmer-mathematician Johann Von Thunen, who, searching for the metrics of land use, by 1820 had computed the distances over which it was profitable to carry different kinds of farm goods, a method with global implications, and one leading to location theory for economic geographers.[31] As a primary producer who had to sell a variety of foodstuffs, von Thunen never doubted that distribution is essential to the reproduction of the values present in those commodities.[32]

Although circles can suggest sale zones, landed proprietors require right angles to define boundaries. In the 1700s, English landlords paid a pound per acre for the legal and physical costs of engrossing one of their two principal means of production: the soils which labourers till. This concentration of acreages encouraged Marx to see that ‘[i]n the strict sense the farmer is just as much an industrial capitalist as the manufacturer.’[33]

The procedures for enclosing fields added to the serried ranks of surveyors who served their apprenticeships on the job.[34] Many trained with British forces against rebels in Scotland and North America, or during the Peninsula campaigns against Napoleon; naval officers charted coastlines and their fortifications from Rio to Riga. Insights gained from the trinity of compass, gunpowder and printing moved back and forth between ship and shore as naval and military surveyors captured natural and built features in preparation for battle, making their typographies into physical geography avant la lettre. ‘To survey’ appears as equivocal as ‘to discover’.[35]

In Australasia, town speculators and squatters on Crown lands[36] sought to stymie the surveyors’ expertise, or could rely on their incompetence and venality when confining survivors of land grabs to mission stations or in government reserves. Naval lieutenant Oxley, Major Mitchell and Colonel Light inscribed more than names on the landscape.

To equate any of these cognitions with the spatial consciousness prevalent among pre-contact peoples further evades the ways in which European discoveries for measuring land and water still serve as instruments to marginalise local practices and their concomitant values.[37] Claimants to country knew nothing of exacting ground-rent from capitalist tenants on limited-term leases. Traditional image-makers remain culturally incapable of comprehending Gainsborough’s celebration of Mr and Mrs Andrews (c1750), a pair of proprietors living off an estate on which they have never done a tap of work.

Science: Cook’s fixing his longitude with the Nautical Almanac (1767) and two chronometers, along with his prevention of scurvy, position him within the the scientific revolutions that encourage a minority of scholars to assert that no one in the West had been doing ‘science’ until the decades of his voyaging.[38] Exaggerated as is that claim, ‘science’ as a collective noun for the gallery of investigations that extend the age attributed to the earth, and to every life form, is not recorded until the 1830s.[39] Well before then, exact measurement has marginalised dogma and speculation, making trigonometric and logarithmic tables as practical as telescopes for observing the Transit of Venus.[40] Specimens collected by Banks and Solander illumine the origins of all species, including the descent of man,[41] but cannot specify how for more than 120 years after 1830 when microscopists begin to discover the multitudes of sub-cellular particles.[42]

To interpret the Yarrilin’s ‘Dingo makes us human’[43] as if it were an alternate explanation to Darwin’s, like those from Biblical literalists or Creationists, is to muddle three different orders of thinking. The knowledges that Europeans had been discovering from the 1500s established ‘nature’ – that ever illusive term[44] – as miraculous only in its mutability, its categories porous, and hence open to further discoveries, a quality epitomised in the platypus – ‘the Australian Paradox’ – acknowledged to be an egg-laying mammal only from the mid-1880s.[45] Hunters never needed to deny that dualism since they dealt with creatures by their totemic relations and did not slot them into Scholastic boxes.[46] To pretend that their ways of being and knowing are the same as those of Linnaeus is to dishonor how they had kept remaking themselves to survive.

Art: While the natural sciences reset parameters for historians and geographers, the combination of those discoveries stimulated artists in every media to reevaluate their subjects, bringing forth innovations in technique. Our finest scholar historian, Bernard Smith, explores how scientific depictions of the South Pacific and its peoples subvert the styles at the Art Academy and Salons: ought Jack Turner seek perfection from a storm in the Alps or from the exactness of a leaf?[47] Meanwhile, lithographers and then camera enthusiasts are depriving oil painters and miniaturists of their preeminence.[48]

Pre-contact story-tellers can be lumped in with their European contemporaries only by desacralising communal creativities into the individualistic and commodified aspirations of their overlords. Although only certain painters may sing certain stories, those prohibitions have nothing in common with Josiah Wedgwood’s deployment of his production line to deprive craftsmen of any say in design, in order, as he boasts, to turn his potters into ‘Artists’, by which he means ‘artisans’.[49] The 1964 Yirkalla bark was a land-rights claim from people untouched by the expectation that one’s beliefs could be traded for lucre. Today, Yolgnu elder Djambawa Marawili calls his images ‘documents’, expressive of an activism inseparable from his responsibilities for the well-being of his and connected clans. To recognise that such visualings are not capital-A Art is to do its creators an honour in opposition to that apotheosis of public relations in which Abu Dhabi can pay $US450m. for a work attributed to Leonardo, ‘Salvator Mundi’, a transaction which defiles its promise to be ‘The Saviour of the World.’

A voyage around ‘discovery’

As one more by-product of proto-capitalist commerce, the usages of ‘discovery’ as a spatial notion floats between finding ways to arrive at places, whether known or not, and arriving at those lands. These shifts begin after 1436 once the Portuguese could tack to the Gran Canaries, Madeira and the Azores, eventually discovering how to recross the Atlantic.[50] Trade winds derive their name from the Old Saxon trada, meaning a track, and discovering those paths at sea laid out highways for stay-at-home merchants. After the Portuguese discover a new route to the Indies via San Tome and then westward before turning back to round the Cape, Vasco da Gama does not suppose, as Arabs pilot him to Culicut in 1489, that he is discovering the Indian sub-continent.[51] Rather, he rejoices at discovering a means to break the Venetian monopoly on the spice trade through the Levant.[52] ‘Discovery’ need not be temporal priority. Columbus also sets out to discover a route to the Indies before colliding with the Caribbean. Magellan in 1520 discovers how it is possible to sail west from Europe into Asia, thereby confirming, not quite discovering, that the earth is round.

European discoveries of the expanse of the Pacific Ocean[53] more than justify an injunction from James A. Williamson: ‘for colonial read oceanic,’[54] to which we should add ‘for oceanic read commercial,’ with Privateers like Dampier ahead of the fleet.[55] Moreover, oceans will become the first frontiers for the British around Port Jackson, whether importing from the East India Company or selling cedar to China. Before 1840, Europeans extract wealth from the seas as well as from the soil, with fisheries setting Hobart Town up as the economic and cultural capital of British Australasia.[56]

The imperial contests that modify word usages shadow Cook’s Pacific voyaging. From the early 1760s, London schemes to occupy the Falklands as a way station to sail around Cape Horn, and onto Manila to reach Canton for tea and other riches on behalf of the East India Company.[57] Instead, the Admiralty in 1786 dispatches a labour force to set up a trading post at Botany Bay for that objective.[58]

On Possession Island, Cook acknowledged that ‘on the Western side I can make no new discovery the honour of which belongs to the Dutch navigators.’[59] He does not claim half a continent from its inhabitants but against other imperia. Those rivalries appear again when French ships arrive at Botany Bay ten days after the First Fleet, and when the Spanish Crown plans to reassert the Papal division of the globe by dislodging the British from New-Holland while they are distracted by a new round in their 400-year world war with France.

Incognita Ancients had speculated that there must be a Great South Land to balance the mass of Eurasia. Theologians, however, construe a hemisphere without land, all of which had fled north, repelled by the fall of Satan. Pope Zacharias condemns an Eighth-century Irish monk, Virgilius of Salzburg, on reports that this ‘Geometer’ is teaching ‘that there is another world and other men, or sun and moon, beneath the earth,’ which his Holiness knows to be flat.[60] Cartographers project shapes and sizes for terra incognita, which the Jesuit Matteo Ricci (1552-1610) depicts as spreading just below the Tropic of Capricorn as far as Chile.[61]

With the Spaniards in the Philippines by the late 1500s, and the Dutch East India Company in Java after 1619, for how long could this other Eldorado remain incognita? A miscellany of errors ensue. Expeditions think they have reached ‘Magellanica’ when they have not (De Quiros in 1605), or do not recognise it when they have (Jansz and Torres in 1606 and Carstensz in 1623). Cook joins the search in 1769-70, charting the islands of New Zealand and the east coast of New-Holland. Returning in 1772-3, he skirts without sighting Antarctica, discovering that no ‘Great South Land’ exists.[62]

Christian cosmologies, like secular cartography, are irrelevant to what the first peoples did or thought they were doing, when they took migratory birds and smoke as evidence that there was land to their south.

Forces of Nature

The landmass that European voyagers encounter from 1606 was not the same as that onto which the earliest arrivals had set foot. Those parts of Greater Australia (Sahul) were no longer attached to this continent, or they had been under water for thousands of years. Who were salt-water people then? Hence, evidence for occupation confined to the present land mass falls short of the first footfall.

Ice ages prevail for two-thirds of human settlement, with a severe cold at 28,000 Before the Present (BP), giving way to a prolonged if uneven thaw after some 14,000 years during which the seas rise 130 metres, severing land bridges to New Guinea and to Tasmania.[63] Waves pound shorelines, carving out the Great Australian Bight within 100 years. Advancing oceans invade swamps and silt river systems. Biotas are transformed, in part, by the impress of human beings whose fire-stick farming will let Mitchell discover Australia Felix.[64] The southern oscillation makes Flinders Island uninhabitable between 4,000 and 2,000BP.[65] Volcanic eruptions in south-west Victoria some 30,000 years ago and across Northern Australia[66] were as mighty as the Dreamtime beings whose journeys and fights had left geological features from which to make country mythopoeic – and doing so more than once – allowing always for the cultural drag by which beliefs outlast the actualities from which they are conceived.

Nowadays, we are fortunate to hear less about Aborigines’ living ‘in timeless harmony with nature’ as if they were koalas up gum trees. For a start, ‘nature’ had been far from harmonious, as just adumbrated. Hence, the first arrivals must discover this continent over and again, remaking their country as larder, as toolbox and as mythos. Within the late Holocene, after 3,000 BP, a further change in the climate permits more aquaculture and fire-stick farming. John Mulvaney’s five decades of research ground our awareness of the material and mental labours of these remakings.[67]

Culture: Loose talk about ‘timeless harmony with nature’ has been replaced by ‘the world’s oldest living culture’, a phrase which trips off the tongue by surrendering the insights to be gained by treating its elements with due seriousness.[68]

To be expressions of a ‘living culture,’ practices will be transitory, cultures proceeding in the plural, and nowhere more so than for that register of all sensuous human activity – language, though vocabulary is less stable than syntax.[69] How many of the words that any of the first arrivals said to each other could have been understood by any of their descendants in 1770? Such extinctions are the gist of a living culture as were the scores of language groups which the first speakers went on to develop. Just as terrestrial Songlines move following upheavals of the landscape, so were their vocalizations inflected by new speech patterns, or after Yolgnu develop the Didgeridu in Arnhem Land 1,500 years ago.[70] When unsettlers disturb ceremonial sites, the locals modify how they relate to them,[71] in an extension of the creativities through which their ancestors coped with geo-physical upheavals. Compared to these triumphs, crossing from south-east Asia into Sahul could seem like child’s play, as does arriving first.

Across fifty millennia, who could suspect that their ways of being could be the oldest on the planet if they had little or no inkling that they are not alone? Autarky ends during the 1700s. Even then, the locals have no apprehension that their ways of being were a ‘culture’, a notion being developed in Europe during Cook’s lifetime, to prove, as Raymond Williams acknowledges, ‘one of the two or three most complicated words in the English language.’ Beginning its etymological career in agri-culture, ‘culture’ drifts into the metaphorical with Francis Bacon’s ‘manurance of minds’, before winning association with the Arts of Civilisation, the absence of which mark the Australians down as ‘savages’, while consigning peasants, slaves and wage-labourers to folk-culture, if not to anarchy. Tension between material culture and spiritual culture deepens with the Romantics.[72]

Manning Clark draws on a terminology advanced by anthropologists[73] to open A History of Australia in 1962: ‘Civilization did not begin in Australia until the last quarter of the eighteenth century … The early inhabitants of the continent created cultures but not civilizations.’ He quotes the OED’s connecting of ‘civilization’ with ‘a people brought out of a state of barbarism.’[74] A godfather of anthropology, Edward B. Tylor, hoped to square the circle with Primitive Culture (1871) by refuting allegations that primitives had degenerated into barbarism but does so by locating them at the remote end of a great chain of progress.[75] Who among Tylor’s contemporaries had much idea of how long it stretched back?

How long, Lord, how long?

The 1925 Australian Encyclopedia declined to opine in regard to the length of occupation since its contributor on ’Aborigines’ decided that, in the absence of a ‘Stonehenge or Great Pyramid from which one could theorise astronomically,’ the dispute could never be more than a guessing game;[76] in 1960, Grolier’s Australian Encyclopedia reported estimates ranging from 10,000 to 100,000 years, before also refraining from judgement.

Since the 1960s, Aborigines have been discovering that their forebears had been here for 50,000 or more years, a run of discoveries confirmed by pre-historians and archeologists with carbon dating and genomics. Moreover, only in recent times did any indigine need a number as big as 50,000. They had counted beyond 2 or 3, with some adding up to 29.[77] No one here before 1788 had any way of tallying up even the 5,600 years which Bishop James Ussher in 1650 had calculated has elapsed since the creation of Genesis at noon on October 23, 4004 B.C.[78] Those Aborigines who are Christian fundamentalists deny 50,000 years of occupation since their universe is Ussher’s. Alternatively, others hold that their ancestors had no need to discover this place but were here always. No less taxing a reconceptualisation has been to put that ‘Very Large Number’ together with a measurable period of time. Dreamtime is hardly open to numeration, being neither a chronological span nor a geo-physical era, but rather an ‘everywhen’.[79] ‘When did anyone arrive?’ is not the same query as ‘Was anyone here when Cook steers north from Cape Howe?’

No Vacancy

Five variations on the theme of a vacant land reinforce resistance to puzzling through the ways in which it is apt to think of Europeans as the discoverers of Australia: terra nullius, citizenship, voting rights, the census, and Section 51 (xxvi). We can confine our comments to terra nullius since no one suggests that the other four informed Cook’s claim to possession. A Truth Commission will confirm that no legal doctrine denied previous occupancy; that some Aborigines could vote; that some were citizens; that many were counted for the census; and that only the prohibition on the Commonwealth parliament’s making laws is irrefragable. However, since citizenship and voting rights were a tangle by State and Territory, by decade and by ‘Protection’ status, it seems ineluctable that allegations of an absolute denial of civil rights should persist. Accuracy will serve Reconciliation whereas getting details awry leaves room for the likes of Bolt and Windshuttle to insinuate that the pains and penalties being protested were greatly exaggerated, perhaps richly deserved.

terra nullius: Australian Aborigines discover terra nullius in the 1970s from proceedings at the World Court for control of the Western Sahara,[80] a case initiated 100 years after the doctrine’s articulation to deal with the Arctic, where there were people but no terra and the Antarctic which had terra but no people.[81] Since the Mabo judgement, terra nullius is often spoken of as if it had operated in 1770 to justify Cook’s taking possession of unoccupied lands. That was not the law of the Empire. Had it been so, why were Cook and the Governors instructed to protect the locals?[82] Andrew Fitzmaurice explains why ‘Mabo is not good history and it may not be very good common law …’, a dismissal he qualifies in two ways. First, he invites us to understand that, by the 1830s, many invaders had learned to behave as if there were no prior occupants, making the denial of their presence a product of dispossession and not its a priori legitimation. He then surprises by praising terra nullius for being ‘clearly continuous with a Western judicial tradition that attempted to rescue liberty … from the threat posed by the dispossession of colonised peoples.’[83] That reasoning grew out of tensions in Locke’s basing of liberty on property and property on labour while encouraging the expropriation of the fruits of the labour of others and of land judged by colonisers to be under-utilised. Certain of Locke’s Eighteenth-century critics feared that endorsing the forcible seizure of wastes in the Americas might come home to roost in Britain’s untilled fields and forests.[84]

 Nation Just as ‘discovery’ acquires fresh usages with the expansion of Europe and through a revolution inside capital from merchant capital into capitalism, so does ‘nation’ attract significances from the state apparatuses being crafted inside Europe to meet the needs of capital at home and abroad.[85] The phrase ‘nation-state’ elides the class relations that led Adam Smith to conclude that ‘Law and government may be considered in … every case as a combination of the rich to oppress the poor, and preserve to themselves the inequality the goods.’[86] In Cook’s time, chattel-slaves, serfs, peasants, wage-slaves and most women of every class remained ‘people without history.’[87] With the spread of bourgeois society, larger fractions of the population are conscripted into ‘nationhood’[88] than had been the case in 1766 when Louis XV could suborn the Parlement of Paris by asserting that ‘the rights and interests of the nation whom you dare to make a separate body from the monarch rest only in my hands.’ March on to the French Revolution. Volunteers charge the guns at Valmy on 20 September 1792 shouting ‘Vive la Nation!’. At dinner that evening, Goethe tells the vanquished Prussian commanders: ‘Here and today, a new epoch in the history of the world has begun.’[89]

We need to think in terms of nation-market-states to track the imposition of controls over productive resources, including labour, and over zones in which goods may be traded and on what terms. Hugo Grotius’s Mare Liberum (1625) hypothesises that ‘the seas belong to no one, that is, in political terms, are under no state’s sovereignty …’; he advances a construct ‘theoretical in the form of its exposition,’ Herbert Rowen notes, but one which ‘was, of course, eminently practical in its purpose … its arguments enforced in the waters of the East Indies by the superior naval and military power’ of the Dutch East Indian Company, not by God or Natural Right, as Grotius implies.[90] His three-mile limit was as far as a cannon ball could fly.

None of those characteristics for a nation-market-state applies to the occupants of this continent before 1788 from when they are subjected to the empire-market-state of the invaders. To adopt ‘first nations’ as a plea for equal status falsifies pre-contact experiences, by subsuming them into the structures of force that power their dispossession. The badge of ‘nation’ extinguishes native title to ways of doing and thinking in a social order without slaves, serfs or wage-labourers, and without colonies.

Colonise: If the first arrivals do not ‘discover’ this continent in the sense that the term applies to the European voyagers, neither could they ‘colonise’ it.[91] To imply that what they did was equivalent to the British invasion is to sanitise aggression. Moreover, stretching ‘colonise’ back 50,000 years ignores how its etymology ties ‘colony’ to projections of power from a center. Even if some of the initial arrivals happen to venture back and forth to Asia, their footholds here were not outposts like those of the Romans in Britain or the English in Ireland.

In pondering the appropriateness of ‘first nations’ as a generic for the social organisations of Aborigines and Torres Strait Islanders, we need also to recognise the current status of European Australia in a world system of oligopolising capitals buttressed by warfare states. ‘Our’ Constitution remained a Act of the British Parliament until its repatriation in 1986, when appeals to the Privy Council were also abolished – having been insisted on by the Colonial Office in 1900 to protect British investors.[92] Canberra does not legislate for Dominion Status until 1942, eleven years after Canada, Eire and South Africa forced the issue of wider de jure independence. And we have a non-citizen as Head of State. It is past time to stop prattling about being Post-Colonial and to think, instead, in terms of a stalled de-Dominionisation,[93] and to deal with the actualities of our being Neo-Colonial, both in relations with the first peoples[94] and towards great and powerful friends in economic and strategic realms. Extending indigenous rights into the sea was a big win for Wik in 1996 but a tiny step towards decolonising the world’s oceans.[95]

A further point of power cannot be neglected. The more indigenous claims that Treaties with the Commonwealth and States include, the graver will become the danger of their terms falling victim to one of the traps under Investor-State Dispute procedures imposed by corporates through ‘Free’ Trade Treaties. Members of parliament know next-to-nothing of their wording until a Bill for ratification is brought forward, and even that formality is not always necessary.[96] Coalition politicians huff and puff against an indigenous advisory body as a threat to the rule of parliament yet are blithe in signing away the rule of its laws.

Treaties The questioning of ‘nation’ and of ‘colonise’ has lead us onto treaty-making and thus back to a global order in which Treaties are signed between nation-market-states. ‘Treaty’, like ‘nation’, is far from innocent of the crimes that need to be recognised if treaty-making is to become part of redressing legacies from conquest.

That first peoples could come to arrangements among themselves about resources and movement through each others’ country merits acknowledgement during negotiations for Treaties with the Commonwealth and the States. Such indigenous settlements set a moral standard but are not a template for a Makarrata. Pre-contact agreements were not between invaders and the dispossessed. Settlements between clans and tribes are far from the Treaties between nation-market-states which, under the rule of capital through its state apparatuses, are of a different order of battle. Reagan’s Secretary of State George Schultz knew that of which he spoke: ‘Negotiations are a euphemism for capitulation if the shadow of power is not cast across the bargaining table.’[97] If so, it is as well that Makarrata derives from a Yolgnu word for ‘thigh’, summoning up how a dispute could be settled at the point of an aggrieved party’s spear.

Pre-contact agreements highlight the failure by invaders here to make treaties of any kind. In the U.S. of A., genocidal drives of Amerindians off reservations expose how the invaders do not keep their word. The 1840 Treaty of Waitangi had broken down by 1847; thirteen years later, the administration provoked a new round of land wars. The 1975 Treaty of Waitangi Act becomes for Maori one more of their ‘struggles without end.’[98]

In consequence of such knavery, indigenes around the globe are compelled to rediscover how to resist yet survive in order to fight on in new ways, taking up the ‘Weapons of the Weak’, as James Scott has it.[99] Driven back from armed resistance, they persevere inside courts, parliaments, bureaucracies and international commissions. Courtesy of those processes, Indigenous Australians have no need to discover that, as one told W.E. H. Stanner in 1960: Europeans are ‘Very clever people. Very hard people. Plenty humbug,’[100] an evaluation confirmed by Malcolm Turnbull’s lies about the Statement from the Heart. Hawke had been there in the 1980s, when, to accommodate mining corporates, his administration slipped from endorsing a Treaty to encouraging a ‘compact’ and then to considering Reconciliation. The first peoples are still discovering how to cope with our humbuggery while a body of us seek ways to leave less business unfinished.

La pensee sauvage

As we conclude our study of shifts in word usage, the status of ‘civilisation’ invites further scrutiny. Vaunting ‘Western Civilisation’ returned with the Ramsay bequest to underwrite tertiary courses as a counter to the attention given to genocide by scholars[101] who are not the first to question European supremacy in morals. Indeed, doing so has been one strength of Western Civilisation, whether Diogenes in his barrel, Thomas More in his Utopia (1516), or Cook’s casting luxury against sociability:

From what I have said of the Natives of New-Holland they may appear to some to be the most wretched people upon Earth, but in reality they are far more happier than we Europeans; being wholly unacquainted not only with the superfluous but the necessary Conveniences so much sought after in Europe, they are happy in not knowing the use of them. They live in a Tranquility which is not disturbed by the Inequality of Condition.[102]

As if glossing Cook, Charles Fourier in 1829 perceives that ‘the civilized stage raises every vice practiced under barbarism‘ to the ‘complex, ambiguous, equivocal, hypocritical.’ [103]

The 1920 sesqui-centenary of Cook’s discovery fell into a world in which satire had been choked by mustard gas, a world of fear and trembling from democide in defence of civilization against kultur, a world shadowed by pandemic and revolution. The peace to end all peace will forever taunt those paid to neglect the warnings in the conclusion to the essay on ‘Aborigines’ for the 1925 Australian Encyclopedia:

It would appear that civilised man knows as little regarding the possibilities of his uncivilised brother as he does regarding those primitive savage instincts which he for a long time supposed to be dormant, dead, or never existent in the civilisation to which he belongs.[104]





Anne Clarke, “Romancing the Stones. The Cultural Construction of an Archeological Landscape in the Western District of Victoria,” Archeology in Oceania, 29, no. 1 (1994).

Jim Davidson, “The De-Dominionisation of Australia,” Meanjin, 39, no. 2 (1979).

Clinton Fernandes, What Uncle Sam Wants, U.S. Foreign Policy Objectives in Australia and Beyond (Singapore: Palgrave Macmillan, 2019).

Andrew Fitzmaurice, “The Genealogy of Terra Nullius,” Australian Historical Studies, no. 129 (2007).

Erich Konig, “Captain Cook in the Western Kimberleys,” Ronald M. and Catherine H. Berndt (eds), Aborigines of the West Their Past and Their Present (Perth: University of Western Australia Press, 1980).

Neil Levi, “ ‘No sensible comparison’?: the Place of the Holocaust in Australia’s History Wars,” History and Memory, 19, no. 1 (2007).

Humphrey McQueen, “January 26 – or thereabouts,” Overland, no. 233 (2018).

John Mulvaney and Johan Kamminga, Prehistory of Australia (St. Leonards: Allen & Unwin, 1999).

Lindy Nolan, Driving Disunity The Business Council against Aboriginal Community (Adelaide: Spirit of Eureka, 2017).

Peter Nolan, “Imperial Archipelagos, China, Western Colonialism and the Law of the Sea,” New Left Review, 80 (2013).

David Ritter, “The ‘Rejection of Terra Nullius’ in Mabo: A Critical Analysis,” The Sydney Law Review, 18, no. 1 (1996).

Bernard Smith, European Vision and the South Pacific (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1960).

Bernard Smith, Imagining the Pacific: In the Wake of Cook’s Voyages (Carlton: Miegunyah Press, 1992).

Ranginui Walker, Ka whawhai tonu matou (Struggle without End) (Auckland: Penguin, 2004 ed.).

Raymond Williams, Keywords A Vocabulary of Culture and Society (Glasgow: Fontana, 1976).

Galarrwuy Yungupingu, “The Law of the Land,” The Monthly, July 2016.



Humphrey McQueen is a Canberra activist and Marxist researcher. In the ‘Introduction’ to A New Britannia in 1970, he pointed to its ‘five major weaknesses’, including having been ‘far too peremptory in my treatment of aborigines.’ His writings are accessible on where this essay is posted.

RIGGER WARNING: ‘too erudite’.

Meanjin declined this essay as ‘too erudite’, as it is because I failed to follow Peter Curtis’s daily advice: “Assume nothing.”

Reading Time: 120 minutes.

The text is 1,100 words longer than the one sent to Meanjin.


Jonathan Green

Your rejection of my essay, ‘A Cook’s tour of discovery’, on the grounds that it is ‘too erudite’ recalls how a section editor at The Age was reduced to tears, literally, in 2004 when her superior told her that an article of mine, which had been laid out, had to be pulled because it was ‘too intellectual’ for readers of the Saturday features.

Perhaps you do not care to remember that in July 2007, as editor of, you rejected a two-part piece from me, summarizing the warning from the Bank for International Settlements that the world faced a 1930s-style depression, on the grounds that my submission was ‘too depressing’.

Too erudite, too intellectual, too depressing: ‘too’ has a lot to answer for.

What is depressing is your confirmation of a suggestion by Russell Jacoby in 1976 that we face a law of the tendency of the rate of intelligence to fall. One of its effects, he warns, is that the law’s advance will make it harder to recognise its existence.

For my part, I do not accept that the danger comes from a fall in ‘the rate of intelligence’, whatever that may be. Rather, we suffer from an abandonment of the nourishing of intelligence by people holding positions which once led audiences towards realms into which we had not thought – dared? – to go.

In short, education has been reduced back to public instruction under the rule of NAPLAN while the publishing industry is not alone in living off food porn.

Humphrey McQueen
7 March 2020


The following seaweed – W.K. Hancock’s term for footnotes – was never intended to accompany a print version but for this on-line version to leave readers with a resource and to tempt them beyond the silos of their disciplines.

[1] Paolo Rossi, Philosophy, Technology and the Arts in The Early Modern Era (New York: HarperTorchback, 1970).

[2] We do not enter into defining capital-within-capitalism, for which see my “Re-fining capitalism”

Maurice Dobb provides an invaluable disquisition on how capital and its cognates have been understood across the centuries in Studies in the Development of Capitalism, (London: Routledge, 1947), 1-32. Other contributions include R.H. Hilton, “Capitalism – What’s in a Name?,” Past & Present, 1, (1952): 32-43.

‘Industrial Revolution’ is also reserved for another occasion except to quote Marx: ‘industrial encompasses every branch of production that is pursued on a capitalist basis.’ Capital, II (London: Penguin, 1978), 133; Grundrisse (London: Penguin, 1973) 389ff.; Theories of Surplus-Value (TS-V), Part II (Moscow: Progress Publishers, 1968), 321-9.

[3] George W.S. Trow, Within the context of no context (Boston: LittleBrown, 1981).

[4] For socio-cultural etymologies of art, culture, civilisation, nature, history and science see Raymond Williams, Keywords (Glasgow: Fontana, 1976). Williams also discusses ‘class’ as does Asa Briggs, “The Language of ‘Class’ in Early Nineteenth-Century England,” Asa Briggs and John Saville (eds), Essays in Labour History (London: Macmillan, 1960).

[5] See my “Dominant Genes” and “Quite a special juice,” Temper Democratic (Kent Town: Wakefield, 1998), 144-68.

[6] See my “Skin Deep,” The Age, January 2, 2002: Extra 7.

[7] In the early 1500s, when the Portuguese began to take a way tens of thousands of slaves, Africans could assume only that their captors must be anthropophagic.

[8] Galarrwuy Yungupingu, “The Law of the Land,” The Monthly, July 2016: 28.

[9] Anne Clarke, “Romancing the Stones. The Cultural Construction of an Archeological Landscape in the Western District of Victoria,” Archeology in Oceania, 29, no. 1 (1994): 12.

[10] Erich Konig, “Noah’s Ark revisited: On the myth-land connection in traditional Aboriginal thought,” Oceania, 51, no. 2 (1980): 118-31; Eirch Konig, “Captain Cook in the Western Kimberleys,” Ronald M. and Catherine H. Berndt (eds), Aborigines of the West Their Past and Their Present (Perth: University of Western Australia Press, 1980), 274-82; Kenneth Maddock, “Myth, history and a sense of oneself,” Jeremy Beckett (ed.)The Past and the Present (Canberra: Aboriginal Studies Press, 1988), 11-30.

[11] Deborah Bird Rose, “Jesus and the Dingo,” Tony Swain and Deborah Bird Rose (eds), Aboriginal Australians and Christian Missions, (Adelaide: Australian Association for the Study of Religions, 1988), 372.

[12] Chips Mackinolty and Paddy Wamburranga, “Too many Captain Cooks,” Swain and Rose (eds), (1988), 355-60.

[13] Stan Grant, “The Owl of Minerva,” Australia Day (Dyslexia Books: Strawberry Hills, 2019), 156; by attending to Hegel, Grant is one of a tiny minority to understand ‘the End of History.’.

[14] Deborah Bird Rose, “The Saga of Captain Cook; Morality in Aboriginal and European Law,” Australian Aboriginal Studies, no. 2 (1984): 24-39.

[15] Peter C. Hodgson, The Formation of Historical Theology (New York: Harper & Row, 1966), chapter 2; Herbert Schnadelbach, Philosophy in Germany 1831-1932 (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1984), 33-65.

[16]  J. Glenn Gray, Hegel and Greek Thought (New York: Harper & Row, 1968), chapter 2.

[17] Richard Levins and Richard Lewontin, “Dialectics and Reductionism in Ecology,” Synthese, 43, (1980): 48; cf. Alfred Schmidt, History and Structure, An Essay of Hegelian-Marxist and Structuralist Theories of History (MIT Press: Cambridge Mass., 1982); for biological Spencerism see Marvin Harris, The Rise of Anthropological Theory A History of Theories of Culture (New York:  Thomas Y. Crowell, 1968), 108-41.

[18] Paul Vinogradoff, Villainage in England (London: Oxford University Press, 1897), 2. Undertows between between certain practices in history, science and the visual arts are explored in Carlo Ginzburg, “Clues: Roots of an Evidential Paradigm,” Clues, Myths, and the Historical Method (Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 1989), 87-113.

[19] J.G.A. Pocock writes that ‘Voltaire’s vision of the Enlightenment is royal and noble in the last degree,’ Barbarism and Religion, Volume Two, Narratives of Civil Government (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1999), 87.

That mental practices are not cut from a single cloth, and still less are they of a piece with material ones, is confirmed by the absence of the latter from The History of the Reign of King Henry VII (1622) (London: Hesperus, 2007) by Francis Bacon, that champion of advancing wisdom through experimentation and who rose to – and fell from – the Lord Chancellorship during decades of trade-driven court intrigues, culminating in regicide, for which see Robert Brenner, Merchants and Revolution, Commercial Change, Political Conflict, and London’s Overseas Traders, 1550-1653 (London: Verso, 2003).

[20] J.M. Maitland, Domesday Book and Beyond (London: Fontana, 1960), 416-7.

[21] Marx draws on the one-seventh of The Politics that might be extracted and relabeled ‘Economics’, Capital, I, 151-2 and 253-4, n.6.; William James Booth, “Households, Markets, and Firms,” George E. McCarthy (ed.) Marx and Aristotle Nineteenth-century German Social Theory and Classical Antiquity (Savage, MD.: Rowman & Littlefield, 1992), 243-71.

‘Aristotle’ is a group noun for a tribe of amamuenses and editors, Jonathan Barnes, “Life and Work,” Jonathan Barnes (ed.) The Cambridge Companion to Aristotle (Cambrdige: Cambridge University Press, 1995), 10-11.

[22] M.I. Finley, Ancient Economy (London: Chatto & Windus, 1973), 21. If Finley is right, the title to Marshall Sahlins’s Stone Age Economics (Chicago:  Aldine Atherton, 1972) is doubly astray. Karl Polanyi takes a different line, “Aristotle Discovers the Economy,“ Karl Polyani et al , (eds) Trade ad Market in Early Empires (Chicago: Free Press, 1957).

[23] R. Torrens, An Essay on the Production of Wealth (1821), 70-71, quoted Marx, Capital, I, 291, n.10; 200 years later, the great intellects of bourgeois marginal utility are still trivialising the capitalism system which they claim to glorify, as exposed by N. Bukharin, An Economic Theory of the Leisure Class (New York: International Publishers, 1927), chapter 1; Allen Oakley, The Foundations of Austrian Economics from Menger to Mises A Critico-Historical Retrospective of Subjectivism (Cheltenham: Edward Arnold, 1997).

[24] Adam Smith, Inquiry into the nature and causes of the wealth of nations (Oxford: The Clarendon Press, 1976), 25.

[25] For a recent instance of a-historical incapacity see Phillip Roberts, “Revisiting the Mount William Greenstone Quarry: employment specialisation and a market economy in early contract hunter-gatherer society,” Australian Aboriginal Studies, no. 2 (2017): 14-27.

[26] David Reich, Who we are and how we got here, Ancient DNA and the new science of the human past (Pantheon: New York, 2018).

[27] Gordon Briscoe,?“Aboriginal Australian Identity: The Historiography of Relations between Indigenous Ethnic Groups and Other Australians, 1788 to 1988,”? History Workshop, no. 36, (1993): 133-161.

[28] Jeremy Black, Geographies of an Imperial Power, The British World, 1688-1815 (Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 2018); H.C. Darby, “Academic Geography in Britain: 1918-1946,” Transactions of the Institute of British Geographers, 8, no.1 (1983): 14-26.

[29] Dr Andrew Ure, The Philosophy of Manufactures (London: Frank Cass, 1967ed.), vii.

[30] Noel W. Thompson, The People’s Science, The popular political economy of exploitation and crisis 1816-34 (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1984); Karl Marx, TS-V, Part III (Moscow: Progress Publishers, 1971), chapter XXI.

[31] Daniel Block and E. Melanie DuPuis, “Making the Country Work for the City: von Thünen’s Ideas in Geography, Agricultural Economics and the Sociology of Agriculture,” The American Journal of Economics and Sociology, 60, no. 1 (2001): 79-98; in 1890, Alfred Marshall takes his cue for of ‘marginal increments’ from von Thunen, Principles of Economics (Amherst: Prometheus Books, 1997 ed.), p. xvi, n. 1. Fernand Braudel ranks von Thunen ‘alongside Marx as the greatest German economists of the nineteenth century,’ Civilisation & Capitalism, III (London: Collins, 1984), 38, but, as Marx and Engels make clear, there was not a lot of competition, Marx, Capital, I, 95.

[32] Karl Marx, Capital, III (London: Penguin, 1981), chapters 2 and 3.

[33] Capital, I, (London: Penguin, 1976), 914 n.1.

[34] For earlier times, E. G. R. Taylor, “The Surveyor,” The Economic History Review, 17, no. 2 (1947): 121-133; Witold Kula, Measures and Men (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1986), 29-42.

[35] Larrie D. Ferreiro, Measure of the Earth, The Enlightenment Expedition that Reshaped the World (New York: Basic Books, 2011), 11-14, 28-32a and 78-87, and, of course, Dava Sobel, Longitude (New York: Walker, 1995).

[36] Douglas Pike, “Introduction of the Real Property Act in South Australia,” Adelaide Law Review, 1, no. 2 (1960-62): 169-89; in 1840, Governor George Gipps reports to London: ‘As well might it be attempted to contain the Arabs of the Desert within a circle, traced upon their sands, as to confine the Graziers or Woolgrowers of New South Wales within any boundary that can possibly be confined to them;’ Historical Records of Australia, series 3, vol. 21, 127.

[37] Chris Healy, From the Ruins of Colonialism: History as Social History (Cambridge University Press, 1997), chapter 2; Jane M. Jacobs, “The Consequences of Ruins: Contemplations on Social Memory and Loss of Place in Australia,” Journal of Historical Geography, 23, no. 4 (1997): 500-5.

[38] Andrew Cunningham and Perry Williams, “De-Centring the ‘Big Picture’: The Modern Origins of Science and the Origins of Modern Science,” British Journal for the History of Science, 26 (1993): 407-32.

[39] Edward Grant, A History of Natural Philosophy, From the Ancient World to the Nineteenth Century, (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2007), pp. 307-22. In his ‘1885 Preface” to Anti-Duhring, Fredrick Engels reminds us that “It is much easier … to assail the old philosophy of nature than to appreciate its historical significance … that there was also in it much that was sensible and rational began to be perceived after the theory of evolution became widespread … In his primordial slime and primordial vesicle Oken put forward as a biological postulate what was in fact subsequently discovered as protoplasm and cell.” Marx-Engels Collected Works (M-ECW), vol. 25 (New York: International Publishers, 1987), 12n.

[40] Isabel F. Knight, The Geometric Spirit The Abbe de Condillac and the French Enlightenment (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1968).

[41]  Bernard Smith, European Vision and the South Pacific (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1960), chapters 10 and 12; and Imagining the Pacific: In the Wake of Cook’s Voyages (Carlton: Miegunyah Press, 1992).

[42] S. Bradbury, “The Quality of the Image produced by the Compound Microscope: 1700-1840,” S. Bradbury and G.L.E. Turner (eds), Historical Aspects of Microscopy (Cambridge: W. Heffer & Sons, 1967), 151-73; J. Walter Wilson, “Virchow’s Contribution to the Cell Theory,” Journal of the History of Medicine and Allied Sciences, 2, no. 2 (1947): 163-78; the evidence did not speak for itself but was interpreted though disputes around a vital force, Owsei Temkin, “Materialism in French and German Physiology of the Early Nineteenth Century”, Bulletin of the History of Medicine, 20, no. 2 (1946): 322-7.

[43] Rose, Swain and Rose (eds), 361-75.

[44] A.E. Pilkington, “ ‘Nature’ as Ethical Norm in the Enlightenment,” J.L. Jordanova (ed.) Languages of Nature (London: Free Association Books, 1986), 51-85; Lorraine Daston, “The Naturalistic Fallacy is Modern,” Isis, 103, no. 3 (2014): 579-87.

[45] Ann Moyal, The Platypus (Crow’s Nest: Allen & Unwin, 2001), chapter 11 and 195-9; a confirmation welcomed as one more disproof of fixed categories by Engels, M-ECW, vol. 25, 14.

[46] Julie Anne Waddy, Classification of Plants & Animals from a Groote Eylandt Aboriginal Point of View (Darwin: Australian National University, North Australia Research Unit, 1988), Two Volumes.

[47] Smith, European Vision, 339.

[48] Francis D. Klingender, Art and the Industrial Revolution (New York: Augustus M. Kelly, 1968ed.), chapter1.

[49] Neil McKendrick, “Josiah Wedgwood and Factory Discipline,” Historical Journal, 4, no. 1 (1961): 34.

[50] Alfred W. Crosby, Ecological Imperialism The Biological Expansion of Europe, 900-1900 (Cambridge: Canto, 1993), chapters 3 and 4. The reverse flow in foodstuffs sustained the twelve million slaves on the Middle Passage, Alfred W. Crosby, Columbian Exchange biological and cultural consequences of 1492 (Westport: Greenwood Press, 1982), chapters 3 and 5.

[51] C.R. Boxer, The Portuguese Seaborne Empire 1415-1825 (London: Hutchinson, 1969), chapter 2; Michael Pearson (ed.), Trade, Circulation, and Flow in the Indian Ocean World (Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan, 2015).

[52] Renard Gluzman, “Between Venice and the Levant: Re-Evaluating Maritime Routes from the Fourteenth to the Sixteenth Century,” The Mariner’s Mirror, 96, no. 3 (2010): 264–294.

[53] O.H.K. Spate, The Pacific Since Magellan: The Spanish Lake (Canberra: ANU Press, 1979).

[54] James A. Williamson, The Ocean in English History (Oxford at the Clarendon Press, 1941), 198.

[55] David J. Starkey, “The economic and military significance of British privateering, 1702-83,” Journal of Transport History, Third Series, 9, no. 1 (1988): 50-59.

[56] D.R. Hainsworth, Sydney Traders: Simeon Lord and his contemporaries, 1788-1821 (North Melbourne: Cassell Australia, 1972), chapters 10 and 11; R.M. Hartwell, The Economic Development of Van Diemen’s Land  (Melbourne: Melbourne University Press, 1954), 139-43; Barbara Little, “The Sealing and Whaling Industry in Australia before 1850,” Australian Economic History Review, IX, no. 2 (1969): 109-27. The Lady Rowena out of Sydney was wrecked on Hokkaido in 1831, Henry Frei, “Japan discovers Australia: the emergence of Australia in the Japanese world view,” Monumenta Nipponica, 39, no.1 (1984): 66; cf. Donald Keene, The Japanese Discovery of Europe: Honda Toshiaki and Other Discoverers, 1720-1789 (Sandford: Stanford University Press, 1969ed.)

[57] Allan Christelow, “Great Britain and the Trades from Cadiz and Lisbon to Spanish America and Brazil, 1759-1783,” The Hispanic American Historical Review, 27, no. 1 (1947): 23-26. Cook follows Magellan’s route into the Pacific.

[58] K.M. Dallas, Trading Posts or Penal Colonies (Hobart: Fullers Bookshop, 1969).

[59] J.C. Beaglehole (ed.), The Journals of Captain James Cook on his Voyages of Discovery, I, The Voyage of the Endeavour 1768-71 (London: Hakylyt Society, 1955), 387.

[60] H.M. Gwatkin et al. (eds), Cambridge Medieval History, vol. iii (Cambridge at the University Press, 1922), 512-3.

[61] Michaela Fontana, Matteo Ricci, A Jesuit in the Ming Court (Lanham MD: Rowman and Littlefield, 2011), 54-7, 172-6, 209-12, 217-20 and 266-8.

[62] Shiela Bransfield, The Man Who Discovered Antarctica Edward Bransfield Explained (Barnsley: frontline books, 2019), chapter 19.

Cook’s astronomer and meteorologist, William Wales, taught Samuel Coleridge mathematics along with reminiscences to inspire The Rime of the Ancient Mariner, Bernard Smith, “Coleridge’s ‘Ancient Mariner’ and Cook’s second voyage,” The Antipodean Manifesto, Essays in Art and History (Melbourne: Oxford University Press, 1976), 168-207.

[63] M.A. Smith “Palaeoclimates: an archaeology of climate change,” Tim Sherratt et al. (eds), A Change in the Weather, Climate and Culture in Australia (Canberra: National Museum of Australia Press, 2005), chapter 15; a want of precise data is stressed by Kurt Lambeck et al., “Sea level and global ice volumes from the Last Glacial Maximum to the Holocene,” PNAS, 111, no. 43 (2014): 15296-15303.

[64] D.J. Mulvaney and J. Peter White (eds), Australians to 1788 (Sydney: Fairfax, Syme and Weldon Associates, 1988), chapters 2-4.

[65] Barry H. Brimfield, Tasmania and the El Nino climate change of C.4,000BP (Mowbray: B.H. Brimfield, 2017).

[66] Benjamin E. Cohen et al., ”Holocene-Neogene volcanism in northeastern Australia chronology and eruption history,” Quaternary Geochronology, 39, no. 4 (2017): 79-91. One scholar would have us believe that one of her assumptions gains support from ‘oral accounts by Gundijmata peoples of volcanic activity in the study area’ from 30,000 years ago, despite her admitting that ‘[s]erious anthropological study was never carried out in Victoria …. Obviously there have been huge losses in knowledge due to this perception …’ Heather Builth, “The Cultural and Environmental Landscape of the Mount Eccles Lava Flow,” Designing Place, An Archeology of the Western District (Melbourne: Melbourne Books, 2010), 81 and 86.

[67] John Mulvaney and Johann Kamminga, Prehistory of Australia (St Leonards: Allen & Unwin, 1999); Tim Bonyhady and Tom Griffiths (eds), Prehistory to Politics John Mulvaney, The Humanities and the Public Intellectual (Carlton: Melbourne University Press, 1996); see also Bill Gammage, The Biggest Estate on Earth How Aborigines Made Australia (Sydney: Allen & Unwin, 2011).

[68] A preliminary step might be to ponder the 160 definitions identified in 1952 by A.L. Kroeber and C. Kluckman, a plethora which the rash of Cultural Studies will have done nothing to restrain, Culture A Critical Review of Concepts and Definitions (Cambridge, MA.: Peabody Museum, 1952).

[69] L. Pylkkanen, “The neural basis of combinatory syntax and semantics,” Science, 336, no. 6461 (2019): 62-66.

[70] K. Neuenfeldt (ed.), The Didgeridu: From Arnhem Land to the Internet (Sydney: Perfect Beat Publications, 1997).

[71] E. Jaydeyn Thomas and Anne Ross, “Counter-mapping theory and its application to a constantly changing Aboriginal stone arrangement site,” Australian Archeology, 84, no. 1 (2018): 56-66.

[72] Williams, Keywords, pp. 76-82; and his Culture and Society (Harmondsworth: Penguin, 1962).

[73] Harris, The Rise of Anthropological Theory.

[74] C.M.H. Clark, A History of Australia, I (Parkville: Melbourne University Press, 1962), 3. In light of Clark’s disparagement of ‘the British Philistine’, are his readers being alerted to the cunning of history along with the irony of historians?

[75] Tylor defends the boomerang from a string of accusations: that it is derivative; proof of a decline in its contemporary makers; and naught but a throwing cudgel, Early History of Mankind and the Development of Civilisation (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1964 abridged edition), 150-2, 162 and 234.

[76] W. Ramsay Smith, “Aborigines,” A.W. Jose et al. (eds) Australian Encyclopedia (Sydney: Angus & Robertson, 1925), vol. 1, 19; see Smith’s article in the Year Book of the Commonwealth of Australia, III, (Melbourne: Commonwealth Bureau of Census and Statistics, 1910), 158-76.

[77] John Harris, “Fact and Fallacies of Aboriginal Number Systems,” and Barbara Sayers, “Aboriginal Mathematical Concepts: A Cultural and Linguistic Explanation for some of the Problems,” Language and Culture, Working Papers of SIL-AAB, Series B, Volume 8, (1982), pp. 153-82 and 183ff,; John Harris, “Australian Aboriginal and Island mathematics,” Australian Aboriginal Studies, 2 (1987): 29-37; Peter Worsley, Knowledges Culture Counterculture Subculture (New York: New Press, 1997), 96-107.

[78] Stephen Jay Gould, “Fall in the House of Ussher,” Eight Little Piggies (London: Jonathan Cape, 1993), 181-93.

[79] W.E.H Stanner, “The Deaming,” T.A.G. Hungerford (ed.), Australian Signpost An Anthology (Melbourne: Cheshire, (1956), 51-65; Patrick Wolfe, “On being woken up: The Dreamtime in anthropology and in Australian settler culture,” Comparative Studies in Society and History, 33, no. 2 (1991): 197-224; my “Dreaming & Reality,” 24 Hours, May 1993: 50-3, and August, p. 15.

[80] David Ritter, “The ‘Rejection of Terra Nullius’ in Mabo: A Critical Analysis,” The Sydney Law Review, 18, no. 1 (1996): 17-19.

[81] Andrew Fitzmaurice, “The Genealogy of Terra Nullius,” Australian Historical Studies, no. 129 (2007): 2-4.

[82] Merete Borch, “Rethinking the Origins of Terra Nullius,” Australian Historical Studies, no. 117 (2001): 222-239. For some pre-history of the phrase see Sybil M. Jack, “ ‘The Debatable Lands’, Terra Nullius, and Natural Law in the Sixteenth Century,” Northern History, XLI, no. 2 (2004): 289-300; Graham Robb, The debatable land; the lost world between Scotland and England (London: Picador, 2018).

[83] Fitzmaurice, 14-15.

[84] C.D. Macpherson, The Political Theory of Possessive Individualism Hobbes to Locke (London: Oxford University Press, 1962), chapter V; David Armitage, “John Locke, Carolina, and the ‘Two Treatises on Government’,” Political Theory, 32, no. 4 (2004): 602-27; Bhikhu Parekh, “Liberalism and Colonialism: critique of Locke and Mill,” Jan Nederveen Pieterse and Bhikhu Parekh (eds), The Decolonization of Imagination (Zed Books: London, 1995), 81-98.

[85] John S. Pettengill, “The Impact of Military Technology on European Income Distribution,” Journal of Interdisciplinary History, 10 (2), (1979): 201-225; Ronald W. Batchelder and Herman Freudenberger, “On the Rational Origins of the Modern Centralised State,” Explorations in Economic History, 20, no. 1 (1983): 1-13; Joseph E. Inikori, ‘The import of firearms into West Africa, 1750 to 1807: a quantitative analysis’, Joseph E. Inikori (ed.), Forced migration: the impact of the export slave trade on African societies (London: Hutchinson, 1982), 126-53.

[86] Adam Smith, Lectures on Jurisprudence (Oxford at the Clarendon Press, 1978), 208.

[87] Eric R. Wolf, Europe and the People Without History (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1982).

[88] See my “Conscription for War and Profit: Classes, Nation-Market-States and Empires,” Labour History, 114 (2018): 169-81.

[89] Quoted Pierre Goubert, The Course of French History (New York: Routledge, 1991), 158.

[90] Herbert H. Rowen (ed.), The Low Countries in Early Modern Times (London: Macmillan, 1972), 143-57.

[91] Examples include Mulvaney and Kamminga, chapter 9.

[92] B.K. de Garis, ”The Colonial Office and the Commonwealth Constitution Bill,” A.W. Martin (ed.), Essays in Australian Federation (Carlton: Melbourne University Press, 1969), 94-121.

[93] Jim Davidson, “The De-Dominionisation of Australia,” Meanjin, 39, no. 2 (1979): 139-65.

[94] Lindy Nolan, Driving Disunity The Business Council against Aboriginal Community (Adelaide: Spirit of Eureka, 2017).

[95] See my Japan to the Rescue (Melbourne: Heinemann, 1991), chapter 5; Peter Nolan, “Imperial Archipelagos, China, Western Colonialism and the Law of the Sea,” New Left Review, 80 (2013): 77-98.

[96] Clinton Fernandes, What Uncle Sam Wants, U.S. Foreign Policy Objectives in Australia and Beyond (Singapore: Palgrave Macmillan, 2019), chapter 6.

[97] George Schultz, New York Times, April 14, 1986.

[98] Ranginui Walker, Ka whawhai tonu matou (Struggle without End) (Auckland: Penguin, 2004 ed.), 114-6 and 244-5.

[99] James Scott, Weapons of the Weak  (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1985).

[100] W.E.H. Stanner, “Letter,” Sydney Morning Herald, May 2, 1964.

[101] Neil Levi, “ ‘No sensible comparison’?: the Place of the Holocaust in Australia’s History Wars,” History and Memory, 19, no. 1 (2007): 124-56.

[102] Beaglehole, The Voyage of the Endeavour, 399.

[103] Charles Fourier, Theorie de l’unite universelle (1808) quoted Engels, M-ECW, 25, 248.

[104] Ramsay Smith, “Aborigines,” Australian Encyclopedia, 35.