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The Colony is a unique portrait of Sydney from pre-contact Aboriginal times to the end of convict transports in 1840. From the coast across the Cumberland Plain to the rivers at the foot of the Blue Mountains, Grace Karskens presents a groundbreaking reinterpretation of the early history of Sydney. It is a richly textured approach that draws on social history, traditional political history, environmental concerns, Aboriginal history and archaeology.

The growth of Sydney sees the pragmatic and political struggle for urban space, the first suburbs sprout up and rural townships attract new settlers as agrarian visions of islands in the bush linked by rivers are realised. Contrary to popular belief, Aboriginal men and women did not disappear but instead stayed on, making a place for themselves. The myth of the ‘foundational orgy’ is debunked and instead the role of women is shown to be more varied and complex. Karskens shows the impact of the environment on all things from the treatment of convicts to the rising respectability of the new colony, to Governor Lachlan Macquarie and his wife Elizabeth’s profound re-shaping of Sydney’s physical landscape and society.

With sometimes startling new information about familiar figures, and accounts of the founding of some of Sydney’s outlying suburbs, The Colony offers a fresh and compelling story of the origins of Australia’s oldest city.