Reviews for Arthur Phillip – Sailor, Mercenary, Governor, Spy:

Our founding father

Reviewer: Justin Owen – The Spectator – January 25, 2014

Founding fathers of proud nations are venerated. From an early age, children learn about their achievements and sacrifices. A King Kong-sized statue will often abound the founding city. The nation downs tools and enjoys public holidays in their honour. Worthy recognition by a grateful nation.

Not so Australia. Captain Arthur Phillip — first governor of NSW and founder extraordinaire of the settlement that was to become our great nation of Australia — has endured such vague disinterest from our historians, scholars and political leaders that it is simply extraordinary. Yes, there have been the occasional biography — such as the pre-World War Two work of George Mackaness — but this sort of examination was the exception rather than the rule.

Voyage of destiny

Reviewer: STEPHEN WILKS – The Sydney Morning Herald, Entertainment – October 5, 2013

Judging books by their blurbs is even trickier than getting exercised about their covers. I wondered at first what a plug from BBC correspondent Andrew Marr could credibly do for this new biography of the first governor of the motley little colony of NSW. A possible riposte arises from Arthur Phillip’s time at Port Jackson having accounted for barely five years of a nearly 76-year life dedicated to serving Britain’s navy and empire across the globe. Marr has written knowledgably enough about the world history that forms the fuller backdrop to this primal figure in Australia’s past.

So don’t be shocked that Phillip’s sojourn in infant Sydney accounts for a mere 22 pages of this 354-page book. But Marr is wrong about one thing – this is not a story never before told. Pembroke, a NSW Supreme Court justice, acknowledges the two best previous Phillip biographers, George Mackaness and Alan Frost.

The secrets and dreams of our first governor

Reviewed by Simon Caterson – The Sydney Morning Herald, Entertainment – October 5, 2013

According to Michael Pembroke, Arthur Phillip embodied the ideal of Australia as the optimistic and well intentioned project of the British Enlightenment. Pembroke, who is a judge in New South Wales, portrays the commander of the First Fleet and first governor of New South Wales as more than just a skilled navigator. For him, Arthur Phillip was a wise and (for the times) humane leader of men, a visionary genuinely wanting to create a better society.

Indeed, if Phillip’s personal dream for the new colony had been realised, we might now be living in a sort of Enlightenment utopia called Albion, using the name derived by Phillip from the foundation myth of England. As it is, Pembroke believes, what many people have taken to be a distinctly Australian spirit of democracy and egalitarianism owes much to the vision of Phillip.

The Greatness of Arthur Phillip

James Spigelman – Quadrant – October, 2013

Sydney’s Powerhouse Museum is the home of one of the most significant cultural objects in Australia. The Boulton and Watt engine is the oldest rotative steam engine in the world. Originally installed in 1785 at Whitbread’s Brewery, London, it operated for a century: grinding and lifting malt, stirring vats and pumping water and beer. It was on its way to the scrap-yard in 1887, when a Trustee of what became the Powerhouse acquired it as a donation.

The engine arrived in Sydney in 1888 on the Centenary of the foundation of modern Australia and was a feature of the original Museum for decades. After a full restoration, it was given pride of place in the new Powerhouse Museum, opened for the Bicentenary in 1988. The engine represents a critical turning point in the industrial revolution. It was the first commercially successful stationary power plant that operated without wind, water or muscle. In the case of Whitbread Brewery, it replaced a horse wheel.

Seadog who steered a colony

by: Lyndon Megarrity – The Australian, Arts – September 21, 2013

ARTHUR Phillip’s claim to fame largely rests on his work as governor of NSW between 1788 and 1792. As the administrator of a remote penal settlement, Phillip (1738-1814) has been recognised by historians for his firm but fair management of convicts, along with his sincere, if sometimes clumsy, attempts to foster good relations with the indigenous people of Port Jackson.

Indeed, Phillip has come to embody the early narrative of European settlement. Nevertheless, biographers have great trouble trying to get a picture of the “real” Phillip because most of what we know about the man is based on official rather than private correspondence. Outside his governorship, the paper trail for his naval career and personal life is depressingly limited.

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About Michael Pembroke

‘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.’
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