Aboriginal Plant Collectors
As world exploration expanded in the 17th century, explorers of Australia were amazed to discover the unique plants and animals they encountered in the 'Great Southern Land.' Back in Europe, scholars craved for exotic specimens to challenge the ways in which they, as scientists, ordered the natural world. An imperative for British colonists was to discover and secure natural resources of economic benefit to the Empire. Europeans who investigated the expanding frontier of settlement were impelled to engage with indigenous people who were being progressively dispossessed of their land. Plant hunters were a hardy breed of men primarily employed to collect both dried and living plants and send them back to Europe. Aboriginal guides accompanied plant collectors into the field. As hunter-gatherers, the guides had bush skills that were derived from their extensive environmental knowledge and first hand experience of the Australian flora. In the published accounts of the colonial period, indigenous people working with European explorers and plant collectors have too often been portrayed as silent partners. In order to address this imbalance, this book investigates the role of particular Aboriginal groups and individuals in the botanical discovery of Australia. The bulk of the book is a detailed description of the interaction between particular plant collectors and Aboriginal people through the 19th century. It includes chapters on the work of George Caley, Allan Cunningham, Von Mueller, and the resident plant collectors in Western Australia, South Australia, and Tasmania. Additionally, there are chapters on the inland explorers Leichhardt, Burke, and Wills.
Publication Date: 5/1/2008