Bennelong & Phillip


My new book has been acquired by Simon and Schuster Australia, sold by my agent David Godwin Associates. It’s due out in 2023. I’ve really loved working on my favourite period but, for the first time, focusing on Australian history. A working synopsis:

“They died within one year of each other. Arthur Phillip, first governor of New South Wales, died in 1814 in Bath, southwest England, after serving the British empire around the globe for over forty years. Bennelong the Wangal man from today’s Sydney region passed away in 1813, an esteemed elder of a group of Indigenous people living along the northern shores of the Parramatta River. Phillip and Bennelong knew each other for only five years but their relationship has occupied a central role in the history of Australia’s modern founding. It helped forge connections between British and Indigenous people around Sydney harbour during the initial period of culture shock. It has also been seen ever since as a mixed allegory of Indigenous-settler relations in all former colonies.

This book narrates the famous relationship between Phillip and Bennelong in a new way. It unravels their story from end to beginning: from posthumous evaluations to their later years, to their journeys together and apart, to their initial meeting, and finally to their respective origins and different ancestries. Looking back on Phillip and Bennelong opens up fresh perspectives on both men. It reveals how much Phillip was entangled in the service of an escalating global empire. His approach to Bennelong spoke of a deep and ongoing history of determined colonization. It also overturns the popular image of Bennelong as a tragic victim of cultural collision, showing instead that his withdrawal from the Sydney colony after Phillip’s departure was a triumph rather than a defeat. Their negotiations with one another illuminate both a harsher empire and a more persistent Indigenous presence than usually acknowledged.”