Savage or Civilised?: Manners in Colonial Australia

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Media: BOOK - paperback, 432 pages
Author: P. Russell
Year: 2010
ISBN: 9780868408606
Other: b&w & colour sketches, bibliography, index
Publisher: NewSouth Books

When a New South Wales political leader meets a member of the royal family should they shake hands? When doctors fall out over the treatment should they settle their dispute by an appeal to colleagues or a duel? Does a handshake between strangers mean 'You may pass through our lands in peace' or 'Thank you, I am taking this as my own?'
Disputed questions like these cropped up frequently in colonial Australia. In a confused social world, where different people held very different notions of how to behave, opportunities for offence and misunderstanding were rife. The clash of class, sex or culture was intensely felt in the small encounters of everyday life.

Manners marked the difference between savagery and civilisation, between vulgarity and refinement. Colonists recoiled in shock from the customs of Indigenous Australians. But they also sensed, with alarm, the savagery lurking in white society - in the restless bodies of children, the uncouth tongues of bullockies, the absurd pretentions of society matrons, and the violent impulses of gentlemen swift to defend their honour at gunpoint.

From the sparse pastoral frontiers to the crowded city streets of colonial Australia, manners mattered. Penny Russell retells some of the intriguing stories of colonial social conduct: some merely awkward, some vaguely confusing, some downright mortifying. 'Savage or Civilised?' offers a fascinating glimpse into a very different world.

Introduction: Manners for a new world

Part 1
1. Civil frontiers
2. Gestures of peace and friendship
3. Squatters and gentlemen

Part 2
4. High society
5. The transgressions of a lady
6. Defending professional honour

Part 3
7. Domestic worlds
8. The trials of a governess
9. The duties of a good husband
10. Keeping up appearances

Part 4
11. New publics
12. Street parade
13. Social climbing

Conclusion: Awful Australians

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Savage or Civilised?: Manners in Colonial Australia


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