Invasion of Sydney

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Preface to the book

There are many strands to the history of Sydney. Often the focus is on the built form of the city. The Harbour is a glistening jewel in Sydney’s crown and its presence has shaped the metropolis and its citizens in many ways, physically, metaphorically, and imaginatively. Invasion presents an engaging narrative history of Sydney’s enduring, and often well founded, fears of external attack throughout the nineteenth century. The isolated colonial outpost of Sydney was ill prepared for attack, despite an array of hastily built coastal and harbour defences and fortifications. Dean Boyce provides fresh insights into the defence of Sydney in the colonial period and perceptions of external invasion fears. He has used a range of archival sources to investigate how Sydneysiders’ experienced ongoing ‘invasion anxiety’ in the nineteenth century. By positioning the colony of New South Wales within the broader international geopolitical context, the work sheds light on Australia’s place in the world during the colonial period. The City of Sydney is committed to encouraging new research and scholarship on Sydney’s history. Through its history publication sponsorship program, the City has supported over a dozen new histories of Sydney to be published and made available to a wider audience. Dean Boyce was a worthy recipient of this program. Unlike other published works on Sydney’s defences, which have focussed on the built heritage associated with fortifications, Invasion examines the reasons behind, and validity of, Sydneysiders’ fears of attack. It provides a nuanced account of Sydney’s nineteenth century coastal and harbour defences, as well as Sydneysiders’ fears of invasion, both real and imagined. What makes this publication fascinating is its investigation of how this threat of attack was perceived by those who lived in Sydney. Early fears tend to be forgotten when they are not realised. Dean Boyce has made these forgotten fears the focus of his study, investigating a significant strain of anxiety which once characterised life in Sydney. This timely work provides a stimulating point of comparison with the present moment as concerns about border protection and the threat of terrorism loom large in public discourse.
Dr Lisa Murray, City Historian

Book cover illustration –

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