Published: January 2009
Watkin Tench sailed to Australia with the First Fleet in 1788. In his late twenties, a captain of the marines, he was insatiably curious about the new British colony of Australia. In his four years in the country, he wrote two books about the early settlement which were bestsellers in their day. These are A Narrative of the Expedition to Botany Bay (1789) and An Account of the Settlement at Port Jackson (1793). Both are included in full in this edition under the title 1788. Tench is the most readable of writers, and his books are fascinating for the vivid portraits they provide of early Australia. He was commissioned to write them by a London publisher before he left, as the British were so hungry for information about unknown lands. Tench introduces us to the iconic figures of Arthur Phillip and Bennelong, and provides fascinating descriptions of the infant colony. This popular edition of his two books should be read by every Australian. Tench stands out amongst the storytellers of Australian history because of his lively and accessible writing, his ability to tell his tale with gusto and wit. 1788 is without doubt the most detailed and comprehensive account of the first years of British settlement.