Leichhardt: A Scientist in a Strange Land

Commentary on Society

"One had to admit that with these released convicts a very impure and immoral element had been introduced into this country and that it would take a long time before it would be eliminated"

Leichhardt diary entry, 20 April 1842.

Leichhardt recorded in his diaries and correspondence not only the flora and fauna, but also his observations of New South Wales’ colonial society. A Prussian, he was very much considered an outsider by the English colonial establishment and found it difficult to achieve the patronage other scientific men from Great Britain might more easily gain. However, not being a part of the establishment, his views provide a unique perspective on colonial life. Leichhardt became dispirited with much of what he saw in colonial society, concluding that the majority of Europeans were essentially in Australia to make their wealth, exploiting resources and people by any means possible so that they could retire comfortably back in England. As time passed his position on Aboriginal society shifted significantly and his respect for Aboriginal knowledge of the land grew.

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