Reviews for Britain, China, & Colonial Australia

Professor Richard Rigby, ANU China Institute, in the English Historical Review

“Benjamin Mountford, in this tightly packed and well-argued monograph,

offers us a different perspective, and in doing so breaks what (at least to this

reviewer) is new ground, triangulating the British, Chinese and Australian

stories. He demonstrates how this three-way relationship impacted on each

country and its interests, with significant implications for each, including on

broader thinking about the meaning and future of the British Empire, not

to mention the growing divergence, within this general imperial identity, of

Australian and British (using the word narrowly and anachronistically) ideas

about Australia’s role and identity. The book anchors this story in a series of

regional, transnational and global developments between the 1780s and the

early twentieth century.”

Professor Lionel Front, Monash University, Journal of British Studies

“As Benjamin Mountford observes in this excellent book, Sydney and Canton had a common

purpose, as beachheads for British commercial activity in large, distant continents.

The theme of Britain, China, and Colonial Australia is the evolving position of Australia as a

point of interaction between two empires in the first century after white settlement …

In considering this broad and important topic, Mountford moves skillfully across a range of

sources. Using company archives, he provides a strong and detailed account of early

Sydney based trade and merchant activity with China, adding depth to existing knowledge of the

Canton trade and the subsequent development of Treaty Ports. Then follows an excellent

account of the transforming effect of the gold rushes, in particular the thriving trade in

passengers from along the Chinese coast to Hong Kong, then to San Francisco and Melbourne. In

subsequent chapters, Mountford draws largely on official records, correspondence, and

private papers to track the changing links between three continents. In doing so, he provides

perspective and context to support a rich narrative…

This is an ambitious and effective book that adds to the growing body of literature on the

history of the Pacific. Mountford’s vision and depth enriches and extends Geoffrey Blainey’s

classic The Tyranny of Distance: How Distance Shaped Australian History (1966). It may also

be read with profit alongside the comparable work of another rising scholar, Kornel

S. Chang, whose recent book Pacific Connections: The Making of the U.S.-Canadian Borderlands

(2012) considers the effects of American and European imperialism in Asia on the capitalist

development of the American West.”