Colonial Settlement: France vs Britain
What If History of Australia (series)
Big Sky, 2022
190pp., pbk., RRP $A14.99
As the dust begins to settle on the media coverage of the controversy over the date, events and perceptions of Australia Day, as the debate and vote on the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Voice referendum gathers momentum, it will flare up again and again.
But had Captain Cook not landed here in 1770 and claimed this land for the British, would it have been left untouched by all except the First Nations people until now? What if Captain Cook’s ship sank when it hit the Great Barrier Reef in 1770? And what if the French settled Australia first? And what if King Louis 16th and Napoleon both ended up here, fighting over who was the rightful ruler in exile? And then the British arrived…
This is a new series (the second focuses on the gold rush) that looks at Australia’s history through a different lens, posing those alternative questions that we encourage students to ask as they delve deeper into common topics and start to form their own opinions. As well as posing the questions, it also explores the possible answers such as what if John Batman’s treaty with the indigenous peoples of what is now Melbourne was legitimate and other treaties were initiated because of it. What if La Perouse had beaten the First Fleet into Port Jackson, would the aristocrats fleeing the French Revolution have settled here, including King Louis XVI and Marie Antoinette.
While it is intended as a humorous look at times past, nevertheless it provides a lot of information not usually found in more traditional historical texts, and its value in encouraging our students to pose alternative questions and consider what might occur if there were a different outcome has value across all branches of the curriculum. If we are to encourage them to be creative and critical learners then they must have access to model texts that do this. While it is more for those who are mentally mature enough to put themselves in the shoes of others and consider different points of view, it definitely has a place in both the primary and secondary school libraries.