Britain formally colonised Van Diemen’s Land in the early years of the nineteenth century. Small convict stations grew into towns. Pastoralists moved in to the aboriginal hunting grounds. There was conflict, there was violence. But, governments and gentlemen succeeded in burying the real story of the Vandemonian War for nearly two centuries.
The Vandemonian War had many sides and shades, but it was fundamentally a war between the British colony of Van Diemen’s Land (Tasmania) and the Aboriginal people who lived in political and social contradiction to that colony. The Vandemonian War tells the largely untold story of how the British truly occupied Van Diemen’s Land deploying regimental soldiers and special forces, armed convicts and mercenaries.
In the 1820s and 1830s the British deliberately pushed the Aboriginals out, driving them to the edge of existence. Far from localised fights between farmers and hunters of popular memory, this was a war of sweeping campaigns and brutal tactics, waged by military and paramilitary forces subject to a Lieutenant Governor who was also Colonel Commanding. The British won the Vandemonian War and then discretely and purposefully concealed it.
Historians failed to see through the myths and lies – until now. It is no exaggeration to say that the tribes of Van Diemen’s Land were extirpated from the island. Whole societies were deliberately obliterated. This is ground breaking story, discovered in neglected handwriting nearly two centuries old, that redraws what we know about our history. The Vandemonian War is a dark stain on a former empire.
Nick Brodie on The Vandemonian War:
“If I had to identify a single moment, I’d say The Vandemonian War grew from a bit of archival lateral-thinking. I was sitting in the Tasmanian Archives and Heritage Office, wondering about the numerical coding pencilled on old documents I was reading. I knew what the numbers were – a filing system for inbound and outbound correspondence – but I also knew that none of the previous histories had ever mentioned them, or ever referred to the outbound series. I decided to find them, did, and this changed everything. The smaller book I had originally envisioned became a much bigger re-writing of the whole story, simply because the established history of frontier conflict in Van Diemen’s Land was utterly wrong.
I found myself staring at the command-and-control structure of the colonial government. Colonial officials minutely orchestrated and documented a war against the Aboriginal peoples of Van Diemen’s Land. With regiments of soldiers, paramilitary forces and mercenaries the colonial government deliberately harassed the Aboriginal people of Tasmania to the edge of extinction. Moreover, the Lieutenant Governor knew what he was doing and knew what effect it had. As I got into the detail of the archive, I could also see how the colonial government covered it up. They had committed genocide and gotten away with it.
The Vandemonian War is an answer to posterity’s forgetfulness. This is the story of the war fought between the British Empire and the Aboriginal peoples of Van Diemen’s Land as never told before. We follow the soldiers and convicts into the field, get to know Aboriginal guides and the politics of inter-Tribal relations, and see a famously ‘humane’ Lieutenant Governor directing it all.”