For over 200 years Australia’s official history has focused on English colonisation and ‘discovery’, with tales of British explorers and first generation white Australians navigating the vast and unfriendly land. But what of the millennia before the English claimed Australia as their own and wrote the history books. 1787 traces the journey of Australia before the infamous 1788 date, to explore just how ‘discovered’ the southern continent was by not only the Indigenous Australians who had lived and prospered for thousands of years, but also the sailors, traders, fishermen and many others who had visited our shores.
This is not about voyages of ‘discovery’, cartography, geography, or hero-captains and their sailing ship adventures. This is a bigger history—of the rise and fall of empires, the shifts in global economies, and their impact on Australia. By charting the encounters with Australia and its original people by several major groups of visitors, primarily the Portuguese, Dutch, Malay, French, and British from the late Middle Ages, 1787 reveals the stories of first encounters between Indigenous Australians and foreigners, placing Indigenous Australians back into our known history rather than a timeless pre-historical one. It’s a fascinating story that shifts focus away from post-colonial history and engages the reader in the eventful and lively stories of Australia as a vast and active land participating in a global history.