Arthur Phillip – Sailor, Mercenary, Governor, Spy
This book was released in August 2013 in Australia and in September in the United Kingdom. The publisher is Hardie Grant, Melbourne and London. It uncovers the elusive character of Arthur Phillip, brings to life his career in the Royal Navy and explains the culture, values, fashions and features of the Georgian society in which he lived and died.
Arthur Phillip’s story is not just written with historical fidelity. It is also told with an eye to the picturesque and with an engaging focus on the scientific and natural world. This is not just a book about wooden ships and big guns, although they certainly feature. It is a story of privation and ambition, of wealthy widows and marriage mistakes, of money and trade, of espionage and mercenaries, of discovery and exploration, and of hardship and illness. It is also a story of the extraordinary idealism that inspired and accompanied the founding of Australia. Inevitably there is loneliness and desperation, war and disappointment. Eventually there were the rewards of re-marriage and genteel living in Regency Bath. At his peak, in mid-life, Arthur Phillip seemed almost perfectly suited to the role that history and circumstance presented to him. He was
‘a man with a good head, a good heart, lots of pluck, and plenty of common sense’.
To those qualities he brought an uncommon amount of integrity, intelligence and persistence. He was after all a captain in the Georgian navy, the type to whom British governments so often turned two centuries ago when they wanted a job well done in a distant part of the world. At the end however, Arthur Phillip’s personal story is one of loss of contemporary relevance and the painful decline into obscurity that comes with old age. His public legacy is the colony that he founded; a colony that he thought would one day be the most valuable acquisition Great Britain ever made.
‘Arthur Phillip – Sailor, Mercenary, Governor, Spy’ was short-listed for the Prime Minister’s Literary Awards 2014
The judges made the following comment about the book:
“Michael Pembroke’s Arthur Phillip: Sailor, Mercenary, Governor, Spy is a rich, freshly edifying and widely informed portrait of this multi-faceted man who, from a highly diversified and unexpected background, became the key figure in Australia’s founding settlement. Impressively written with verve, perception and wide research knowledge, it reveals a complex and versatile figure.”
‘The colour and dash of Arthur Phillip’s extraordinary life, lived in amazing times in every corner of the world, is told just brilliantly in Michael Pembroke’s utterly absorbing book, designed to become a classic of Imperial literature.’