The Tyranny of Distance: How Distance Shaped Australian History

Historian Geoffrey Blainey writes in the 2001 edition:

* The wide ocean parting Australia and Europe impeded the export of Australian commodities. The same wide ocean was also a barrier to the migration of people from Europe. Whereas one powerful cause of the United States’ rapid growth of population in the nineteenth century was its closeness to Europe, the most powerful brake on Australia’s growth of population was its distance from Europe. Historians of the United States often overlook this obvious fact, preferring to concentrate on the natural resources of their land and the enterprise of their people as the dynamos of national growth. In Australia we also overlook this obvious fact, concentrating on Australia’s deficiency of natural resources as the only reason why Australia was not a serious rival to the United States.

* Of all the countries in the new world to which Europeans in mid-century were flocking, the two where new land was dearest were Australia and New Zealand, the two countries most distant from Europe.

* In the egalitarian bushman’s society of the nineteenth century, education was often seen as a form of snobbery and a way of social advancement which broke up the camaraderie of working men.

* Australia’s emergence in the nineteenth century as one of the most sports-crazy nations of the world…was more to be expected in a society dominated by men…

* By the mid-nineteenth century thousands of Australian working men, in their quest for improved conditions, were giving a higher priority to shorter working hours and longer leisure than to higher wages…[because they frequently did not have families to support].

* Without the intervention of American military strength in 1942 Australia would probably have been invaded or blockaded by Japan. Furthermore, in stemming and then repelling the Japanese thrust in New Guinea and the Solomons, America played the major part and suffered heavy casualties. …While in the nineteenth century Australians had erected, by public subscription, many statues to General Gordon, the British general who lost a skirmish on the banks of the Nile, it was perhaps significant that they erected no statues to General Douglas MacArthur.

About Luke Ford

I've written five books (see My work has been covered in the New York Times, the Los Angeles Times, and on 60 Minutes. I teach Alexander Technique in Beverly Hills (
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