This book surveys some of the key intellectual influences in the formation of Australian society by emphasising the impact of the Enlightenment with its commitment to rational enquiry and progress - attitudes which owed much to the successes of the Scientific Revolution. The first part of the book analyses the political and religious background of the period from the First Fleet (1788) to the mid nineteenth century. The second demonstrates the pervasiveness of ideas of improvement - a form of the idea of progress - originally derived from agriculture, but which were to shape attitudes to human nature in fields as diverse as education, penal discipline and race relations. Throughout, the book highlights the extent to which developments in Australia can be compared and contrasted with those in Britain and in the USA.
John Gascoigne is Associate Professor, School of History, University of New South Wales, Sydney and a Fellow of the Australian Academy of the Humanities.
List of illustrations; Abbreviations; Preface and Acknowledgements; 1. Introduction; Part I. Contexts: 2. Religion; 3. Politics; Part II. The Possibilities of Improvement: 4. The earth and its fruits; 5. Science and the land; 6. Cultivation of the mind; 7. Of crimes and punishments; 8. Race and the limits of 'improvement'; Conclusion; Notes; Bibliography; Index.