The role of the Sydney Gazette in the creation of Australia in the Scottish public sphere
2016-06-02T10:27:12Z (GMT) by
Because of the wealth of quantitative information and editorial opinion they provide, those researching British migration have often turned to newspapers and other periodicals; the use of shipping notices, advertisements, original reportage and editorial commentaries has provided historians with contemporary descriptions of changes in population composition, whether by immigration, natural growth, increased mortality or out-migration. Although requiring corroboration, these sources provide excellent indications of when changes occurred and when these became worthy of comment. However, the precise nature of these commentaries, the mechanics of their creation, transmission and evolution, remains unclear. While recent work in newspaper and media history have begun to trace information networks present in Victorian and Edwardian Britain, the lines of communication in the early empire remain unclear. Throughout the Georgian period, newspapers cited, borrowed and blatantly stole editorial content from other British and colonial papers. The question remains, however, whether this source material was manipulated by local editors to suit local prejudices or whether an uncritical inclusion of reprints shaped or utterly transformed local opinion. Since its official founding in 1787, the British colony of New South Wales had been home to a wide range of British immigrants including convicted prisoners, government and military personal, religious missionaries and free settlers. Nonetheless, this complex view of migration and settlement in Australia was not always appreciated by those who resided in sending communities within Britain. Rumours mixed with half-record fact to create an eclectic and fluctuating public conversation of Antipodean prospects. In recent years, historians have begun to rewrite imperial histories to better account for the fluctuating and multi-layered nature of identity within Britain’s “white” colonies, encompassing class, faith, nationality and provincial status. Yet, there remains a fundamental disconnect between the study of public spheres within the colonies themselves and that of Britain. While the study of individual newspaper titles has a long history and imperial historians have now begun to compare perceptions of identity and empire between disparate regions, there has yet to be a close study of the tangible connections between metropolitan, provincial and colonial public spheres. This implies that the two did not intersect or that the spread of identity was mono-directional in nature. This article therefore traces the editorial history of the printed conversations and proclamations found in British and Australian newspapers between 1803 and 1842, the years in which the Sydney Gazette, Australia’s most commonly cited periodical, was in operation. By examining Australia’s public portrayal of immigration, settlement and the demographic composition of New South Wales and by tracing these descriptions through the reprints, abridgements and commentaries of British newspapers, this article compares and contrasts public notions of identity and nationalism within Australia with those who remained or had returned to Great Britain. From this, this article demonstrates the extent to which the Sydney Gazette acted as the gatekeeper and envoy of Australian identity in the early nineteenth century.