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Macquarie

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A lively and engaging portrait of a towering and complex figure of Australian colonial history. Lachlan Macquarie is credited with shaping Australia's destiny, transforming the harsh, foreboding penal colony of New Holland into an agricultural powerhouse and ultimately a prosperous society. He also helped shape Australia's national character. An egalitarian at heart, A lively and engaging portrait of a towering and complex figure of Australian colonial history. Lachlan Macquarie is credited with shaping Australia's destiny, transforming the harsh, foreboding penal colony of New Holland into an agricultural powerhouse and ultimately a prosperous society. He also helped shape Australia's national character. An egalitarian at heart, Macquarie saw boundless potential in Britain's refuse, and under his rule many former convicts went on to become successful administrators, land owners and business people. However, the governor's ambitions for the colony (which he lobbied to have renamed 'Australia') brought him into conflict with the continent's original landowners, and he was responsible for the deaths of Aboriginal men, women and children, brutally killed in a military operation intended to create terror among local Indigenous people. So, was Macquarie the man who sowed the seeds of a great nation, or a tyrant who destroyed Aboriginal resistance? In this, the most comprehensive biography yet of this fascinating colonial governor, acclaimed biographer Grantlee Kieza draws on Macquarie's rich and detailed journals. He chronicles the life and times of a poor Scottish farm boy who joined the British army to make his fortune, saw wars on five continents and clawed his way to the top. Ultimately, Macquarie laid the foundations for a new nation, but, in the process, he played a part in the dispossession of the continent's original people. Lover, fighter, egalitarian, autocrat - Lachlan Macquarie is a complex and engaging character who first envisaged the nation we call Australia.


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A lively and engaging portrait of a towering and complex figure of Australian colonial history. Lachlan Macquarie is credited with shaping Australia's destiny, transforming the harsh, foreboding penal colony of New Holland into an agricultural powerhouse and ultimately a prosperous society. He also helped shape Australia's national character. An egalitarian at heart, A lively and engaging portrait of a towering and complex figure of Australian colonial history. Lachlan Macquarie is credited with shaping Australia's destiny, transforming the harsh, foreboding penal colony of New Holland into an agricultural powerhouse and ultimately a prosperous society. He also helped shape Australia's national character. An egalitarian at heart, Macquarie saw boundless potential in Britain's refuse, and under his rule many former convicts went on to become successful administrators, land owners and business people. However, the governor's ambitions for the colony (which he lobbied to have renamed 'Australia') brought him into conflict with the continent's original landowners, and he was responsible for the deaths of Aboriginal men, women and children, brutally killed in a military operation intended to create terror among local Indigenous people. So, was Macquarie the man who sowed the seeds of a great nation, or a tyrant who destroyed Aboriginal resistance? In this, the most comprehensive biography yet of this fascinating colonial governor, acclaimed biographer Grantlee Kieza draws on Macquarie's rich and detailed journals. He chronicles the life and times of a poor Scottish farm boy who joined the British army to make his fortune, saw wars on five continents and clawed his way to the top. Ultimately, Macquarie laid the foundations for a new nation, but, in the process, he played a part in the dispossession of the continent's original people. Lover, fighter, egalitarian, autocrat - Lachlan Macquarie is a complex and engaging character who first envisaged the nation we call Australia.

30 review for Macquarie

  1. 5 out of 5

    Sandy Sexton

    This is a well-researched, readable biography. Macquarie was a fascinating figure who did much to shape modern Australia. Highly recommended.

  2. 5 out of 5

    Daryl

    This is an outstanding biography of a very controversial governor. Keiza tells a fascinating tale and doesn't shy away from his wars with the Aboriginal people. Even though the book takes half its journey before Macquarie gets to NSW, it's a very interesting tale of his wars in India, America and Egypt. His love life is startling too. Macquarie was 50 years old when he arrived in Sydney and had already lived a big life.

  3. 4 out of 5

    Dennis Rutzou

    I have just finished reading this superb book which I consider to be the best Australian historical biography I have read. Congratulations to the author Grantlee Kieza on producing such a stunning book. I knew Macquarie was a major figure in Australian history, but I didn't realise that he occupied such a pivotal point and his influence is still felt today. You can't live in Sydney without regularly encountering his name on the many buildings, roads, rivers, towns and so on, which bear the name I have just finished reading this superb book which I consider to be the best Australian historical biography I have read. Congratulations to the author Grantlee Kieza on producing such a stunning book. I knew Macquarie was a major figure in Australian history, but I didn't realise that he occupied such a pivotal point and his influence is still felt today. You can't live in Sydney without regularly encountering his name on the many buildings, roads, rivers, towns and so on, which bear the name of Macquarie, but I had forgotten that he was the first public figure to refer to refer to the country as 'Australia'. He had a vision for the country that was not shared by everyone, particularly some in the British Government, which treated him appallingly badly. I thoroughly recommend it to everyone as an absorbing book to read and while you are at it, try some of Grantlee Kieza's other recent books including Mrs Kelly (the mother of Ned), Banjo and the best biography on General Sir John Monash.

  4. 5 out of 5

    Jennifer (JC-S)

    ‘Fellow citizens of Australia.’ Before I picked up this biography, I knew little about Lachlan Macquarie’s life before he became governor of New South Wales in 1810. Macquarie was governor from 1810 until 1821, and played a leading role in the social, economic and architectural development of the colony. But there’s a dark side to that legacy as well. First, some biographic details. Lachlan Macquarie (1762-1824) was born on 31 January 1762 on the island of Ulva in the parish of Kilninian in the ‘Fellow citizens of Australia.’ Before I picked up this biography, I knew little about Lachlan Macquarie’s life before he became governor of New South Wales in 1810. Macquarie was governor from 1810 until 1821, and played a leading role in the social, economic and architectural development of the colony. But there’s a dark side to that legacy as well. First, some biographic details. Lachlan Macquarie (1762-1824) was born on 31 January 1762 on the island of Ulva in the parish of Kilninian in the Inner Hebrides, Scotland. He died on 1 July 1824 in London, England. The first half of the book covers Macquarie’s early life: a poor Scottish farm boy who joined the British army to make his fortune. He saw service in North America, India and Egypt, was married (in 1793) and widowed (in 1796). Macquarie remarried in 1807. Following his appointment at governor, he and wife Elizabeth set sail for New South Wales on 22 May 1809, arrived in Port Jackson on 28 December 1809 and was sworn in as governor on New Year’s Day 1810. Here I enter more familiar territory: Macquarie the autocratic governor, the builder, the administrator. Macquarie (whose name, and that of his wife Elizabeth) appears as place names across New South Wales and Tasmania. This is the Governor Macquarie I was taught about in the third quarter of the last century: benevolent, visionary, and a champion of emancipated convicts. But I didn’t appreciate the impact of this nation-building on the Aboriginal people, many of whom were killed in conflict. I also didn’t know about some of his more questionable actions (such as adding relatives to the army lists). A flawed hero. A man who laid a solid foundation for Australia’s move from penal country to nation but at the same time continued the dispossession of the country’s original inhabitants. I’m glad I read this book, which draws on details from Macquarie’s journals. I’d recommend it to anyone interested in Australia’s journey from colony to nation. Jennifer Cameron-Smith

  5. 4 out of 5

    Richard Gray

    Australian history has never been my strong suit, despite over four decades of life here and my day job at a cultural institute. It was the latter that prompted me to pick up this new biography of one of New South Wales’ longest-serving governors. While it’s over halfway through the book before Kieza gets his subject to the colony, he spends time with some engaging context: Macquarie’s time in India, his first love and tragic loss, fighting against the US War of Independence (with a small Australian history has never been my strong suit, despite over four decades of life here and my day job at a cultural institute. It was the latter that prompted me to pick up this new biography of one of New South Wales’ longest-serving governors. While it’s over halfway through the book before Kieza gets his subject to the colony, he spends time with some engaging context: Macquarie’s time in India, his first love and tragic loss, fighting against the US War of Independence (with a small mention of Hamilton!) and that time he scammed the British government with false army conscripts. Despite his disgraces, he bootstrapped his way to a position that was part punishment and part promotion. The back half of the book looks at his accomplishments as a city planner, crafting much of the modern Sydney layout that continues to drive commuters mad today. So, it’s disappointing to see the way the First Peoples of Australia get treated in this volume. Apart from a few fleeting mentions of the Eora nation in the early chapters, it’s not until Chapter 24 that Kieza directly tackles the “reality” of colonisation. I say “reality” lightly because it’s a typical Euro-centric approach that treats the Indigenous peoples as ‘the other.’ Only spending a few pages out of a longer chapter, Kieza alternatively talks about Indigenous Australia as a source of attack and their trouble for the colonists. He briefly refers to Macquarie’s treatment of the Indigenous people as a “stain” on his reputation, and not calling out the theft of land and genocide. It’s 2019, people: do we need another white history of the colonies? The last few chapters explore some of the minutiae of the colony with some curious asides (fights, the first flushable toilet in the country) before reminding us of his legacy. As a straightforward bio, it definitely educated me a little more, but the gaps in non-white history are a reminder that we always need to consider multiple sources.

  6. 4 out of 5

    Lexie

    Lachlan Macquarie's name is everywhere in Australia. This is a fascinating biography of a man with many strong points and many faults too. It is highly recommended

  7. 5 out of 5

    'Aussie Rick'

  8. 4 out of 5

    Barton

  9. 5 out of 5

    Gary Somerville

  10. 4 out of 5

    Michael

  11. 4 out of 5

    Nick

  12. 5 out of 5

    Bonnie

  13. 4 out of 5

    Kerri

  14. 4 out of 5

    Michael Rawlings

  15. 5 out of 5

    J. D. Kessey

  16. 4 out of 5

    Dan Polanc

  17. 4 out of 5

    Daphne Archer

  18. 5 out of 5

    Peter Jones

  19. 5 out of 5

    Jye Bryant

  20. 4 out of 5

    Craig Holmes

  21. 5 out of 5

    Dale

  22. 5 out of 5

    Abraham

  23. 4 out of 5

    Howard D

  24. 5 out of 5

    Erin Mitchell

  25. 4 out of 5

    Yasmine Perkins

  26. 5 out of 5

    Jarmby

  27. 4 out of 5

    Yvette Goodman

  28. 5 out of 5

    Olwen

  29. 4 out of 5

    Maddy Marshall

  30. 5 out of 5

    Ellis

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