Wednesday, July 9, 2014

Arthur Phillip: Sailor, Mercenary, Governor, Spy, Michael Pembroke

Staff Review by Chris Saliba

Australia's first governor appears in this superb biography as a patriotic and brave soldier, but also a sensitive 18th century Enlightenment man. 

Arthur Phillip is best known to Australians as the first governor of New South Wales, a post he held for five years. History records him as progressive, inspired by Enlightenment thinking and holding a liberal attitude towards the Aborigines he first encountered, the Eora people. In this elegant and finely written biography, judge and naturalist Michael Pembroke sets this central figure of Australian history into a much wider context.

 Arthur Phillip: Sailor, Mercenary, Governor, Spy is both a portrait of the man and the times in which he was a key player. The second half of the eighteenth century, when Arthur Phillip’s naval career was in the ascendency, was a time of British economic expansion and good times, facilitated by imperial conquest and war. As a loyal British subject, Phillip engaged in and supported the many European wars England fought. He also worked as a government spy, surveilling French activities.
The final picture that emerges of Arthur Phillip is of a patriotic, brave soldier, but also a sensitive, thoughtful, even philosophic 18th century man. Michael Pembroke has written a superb biography, a carefully reconstructed life and times that pleasantly lingers in the mind long after it has been finished. 

 Arthur Phillip: Sailor, Mercenary, Governor, Spy, Michael Pembroke. Published by Hardie Grant. ISBN: 9781742708058  RRP: $29.95

This review was first published in Books + Publishing magazine.

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