Explodes the myth that pre-settlement Australia was an untamed wilderness revealing the complex, country-wide systems of land management used by Aboriginal people.
Across Australia, early Europeans commented again and again that the land looked like a park. With extensive grassy patches and pathways, open woodlands and abundant wildlife, it evoked a country estate in England. Bill Gammage has discovered this was because Aboriginal people managed the land in a far more systematic and scientific fashion than we have ever realised.
For over a decade, Gammage has examined written and visual records of the Australian landscape. He has uncovered an extraordinarily complex system of land management using fire and the life cycles of native plants to ensure plentiful wildlife and plant foods throughout the year. We know Aboriginal people spent far less time and effort than Europeans in securing food and shelter, and now we know how they did it.
With details of land-management strategies from around Australia, The Biggest Estate on Earth rewrites the history of this continent, with huge implications for us today. Once Aboriginal people were no longer able to tend their country, it became overgrown and vulnerable to the hugely damaging bushfires we now experience. And what we think of as virgin bush in a national park is nothing of the kind.
Winner, 2012 Prime Minister's Prize for Australian History
Winner, 2012 Victorian Prize for Literature, and Victorian Premier's Literary Awards (Prize for Non-Fiction)
Winner, 2012 ACT Book of the Year Award
Winner, 2012 Queensland Literary Awards (History Book Award)
Winner, 2012 Canberra Critics' Circle Award
Winner, 2011 Manning Clark House National Cultural Awards (Individual Category)
Shortlisted, 2013 NSW Premier's Literary Awards (Douglas Stewart Prize)
Shortlisted, 2012 Australian Book Industry Awards (General Non-Fiction Book of the Year)
Shortlisted, 2012 Australian Historical Association Prizes (Kay Daniels Award)
Bill Gammage is a historian and adjunct professor in the Humanities Research Centre at the Australian National University. He is best known as author of the ground-breaking The Broken Years: Australian Soldiers in the Great War.
Allen & Unwin
Allen & Unwin
Australasian & Pacific History