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Creating Arcadia?: a history of nature conservation
in colonial Western Australia, 1870-1914

Honours Dissertation for the Degree of Bachelor of Arts with Honours
University of Western Australia
August 1992

92 pages, illustrations, bibliography, appendices,
contents page, unpublished mss.

The right of Bruce Baskerville to be identified as the moral rights author of this work is hereby asserted in accordance with the Copyright Amendment (Moral Rights) Act 2000 of the Commonwealth of Australia.

This dissertation was researched and written during 1992, under the supervision of Jenny Gregory and Norman Etherington, Department of History, University of Western Australia.

The Sections

The original document has been scanned chapter by chapter and uploaded to this website on 7th June 2008 to make it available to a wider audience of researchers and interested readers.

None of the text has been altered and the dissertation is retained in its original form as a historical document of its time.

The sections of the original dissertation are arranged below in their original order. Click on any section to open the document in a PDF format.

  • Preface and Introduction, pages 1 - 10
    Table of contents, outlines the historiography, describes approaches of conservation history, environmental history and 'sepia into green', posits a model of 'political ecology' to answer questions of whether conservation was an agent of colonialism in Western Australia, and whether conservation history leads to a different understanding of Westralian history.
  • Chapter 1: European myths and vernacular experience, pages 11 - 18
    looks at concepts of the environmental brought to the colony by the early colonists, their understandings of nature and the natural, the idea of Arcadianism, and their ideas of protected areas in the form of commons, parks and forests.
  • Chapter 2: Westernising Australia, pages 19 - 30
    decribes the colonisation of Western Australia through political decisions and policy making in London and Perth, the gradual evolution from commons to public reserves, and the role of experts in this evolution, and prepares the reader for the three following chapters exploring examples of this process.
  • Chapter 3: The Public Park on Mt Eliza, pages 31 - 42
    illustrates the use of a type of protected area, the public park, to conserve water for use by the inhabitants of the colonial capital, and its transition into Kings Park.
  • Chapter 4: The Common Lands of Irwin, pages 43 - 55
    illustrates the use of another type of protected area, the common, to conserve pasture grasses, firewood and other resources adjacent to settled areas until they were effectively privatised in the early 20th century.
  • Chapter 5: The Flora and Fauna Reserve near Pinjarra, pages 56 - 72
    illustrates the development of a new type of protected area, building upon the models of parks and commons, to conserve native plants and animals, and the eventual demise of this first such reserve in the face of a competing model of resource use, the forest.
  • Conclusions, pages 73 - 83
    Summarises the materials and considers it against the questions about conservation as an agent of colonialism, Westralian history through green-tinted glasses, and whether 'political ecology' was a useful tool in addressing these questions.
  • Bibliography, pages 84 - 92
    covers official unpublished, official published, popular and academic publications.
  • Appendices, pages i - x
    covers conservation legislation in WA 1829-1914, WA Lands Department officials 1870-1912, commons and parks created in WA to 1890, and a submission to an official inquiry.