Australia's tale of discovery, colonization and eventual settlement by the British is fraught with conflict. Wilson's discovery of the Eastern Passage, in 1759, was the event that opened up the South China Sea to burgeoning European trade. The political situation, however, was difficult. The Seven Years' War followed by the American War had created great friction between Europe's rival imperial powers - struggles that continued in the new frontier of the South China Sea. China and the European Triple Alliance of France, Spain and the Netherlands all vied with the British for dominance in the area.
This struggle for trade monopoly and political supremacy was played out on the Australian landmass. Since the time of Dalrymple and Baudin, the existence of a vast and virgin land in the Southern Hemisphere had fascinated Europeans. Originally ring-fenced by Napoleon for a French colony, both the Dutch and British staked their own claim to the strategically important location. In this magisterial study, Howard T. Fry shows how, through the complex relations of European power and the ever-present lure of the potential China trade, Australia came to be British.
Howard T. Fry is a historian specialising in the expansion of British trade during the long eighteenth century. Having served in the Second World War in the army and RAF, he returned to academia, serving first as a schoolmaster and then taking his Ph.D from Cambridge with a thesis on Alexander Dalrymple. He established and taught a course on South-East Asian history for the University of North Queensland, spending two decades of his career in Australia; in 1984 he was awarded a Harold White Research Fellowship at the National Library of Australia.