The Biggest Estate on Earth - Bill Gammage (Allen & Unwin)

The Biggest Estate on Earth coverAcross 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 an English country estate.

With implications for us today, Bill Gammage explodes the myth that pre-settlement Australia was an untamed wilderness, revealing the complex, country-wide systems of land management used by Aboriginal people. Once Aboriginal people were no longer able to tend their country, it became overgrown and vulnerable to the damaging bushfires we now experience. What we think of as virgin bush in a national park is nothing of the kind.

Read the first chapter.

Author biography

Bill GammageBill 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.

Judges’ comments

 Bill Gammage’s The Biggest Estate on Earth argues that the Aboriginal people managed the land in a far more systematic and scientific fashion than we previously envisioned. The Biggest Estate on Earth recasts, in a quantum leap, our perceptions of Aboriginal Australia and our understanding of the historic Australian environment and its land care. Gammage forces us to reconsider our intellectual landscape, and thus present day environmental practices, through his dramatic historical revisioning of our physical landscape. Gammage’s compelling central insight is that the landscape of 1788 was not natural but rather that it was made by Aboriginal people. The author again demonstrates a rare capacity to open a fresh horizon, capturing both history and his reader.