Colonists and the Natural Environment in 18th Century Sydney

Graeme Aplin


Early European inhabitants of Sydney found themselves in a strange natural environment, far removed from those of the Britain they had left behind. They reacted to it in various ways, were constrained by it in various ways, and began to change their new environment from the moment they first stepped ashore. This study focuses on the two-way interaction between humans and nature, from the landing of the First Fleet to the end of the 18th century. It primarily uses first-hand accounts, attempting to read between the lines or deconstruct them to gain a possible overview of the range of early European reactions to the Sydney environment, and to at least begin to understand them. It also uses this evidence to look at and better understand the constraints that the environment placed on the daily life of the colonists in early Sydney, as well as the ways in which those early Sydneysiders changed their environment. Later historical works and more recent studies of Sydney’s natural environment are also used to help in furthering these understandings.


Environment; perception; constraints; impacts; 18th century

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