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The European Quest to Find Terra Australis Incognita: Quiros, Torres and Janszoon Barbara Miller’s book previewed by Norman Miller and reviewed by Dr Timothy Bottoms

ruled Portugal is woven, we find out about the Spanish and Portuguese Inquisitions, the Reformation and Counter-Reformation and even the slave trade out of Africa and other places. This is not another dull history book. It is easy reading but well researched. It is the opportunity for an encounter with ourselves as it is ultimately a story about us.

6 March 2014


Foreword by Norman Miller

his is an action-packed page turner and a history book at the same time. I can see it on the big screen and I can see it on reading lists in high schools. After visiting the beach where de Quiros landed in Espiritu Santo, Vanuatu for the anniversary on 14 May 2012, I thought it might be interesting to re-trace the voyage of de Quiros. I know that was partly the inspiration for my wife doing the research that led to this book. Amazingly enough, in writing this book, it is as if she has taken us on that journey in the spirit or in our imagination. In this story, we traverse continents, travel through centuries and visit many people groups. It is an exciting journey. What stirred the explorers to face the hardships in the elusive quest to find this mysterious South Land? The author answers this eloquently. Though she has kept her distance as an historian, her compassion for both the explorers and the Indigenous people of the Pacific they met is palpable. This book has been written for such a time as this. It positions us to look at our history, at ourselves, what we celebrate and what wounds of history need healing. It is also a story of reconciliation. We can forget history and repeat our mistakes or we can learn from history. We can find ourselves in the story. We can be history makers and

Review by Cairns historian Dr Timothy Bottoms

become part of the story. This is a ground-breaking book. It challenges the history books I grew up with when I went to school. Those books had a British view of Australia’s past. There were other European nations involved in the charting of Australia’s coastline and Australia was peopled by Indigenous people long before Europeans came. But this book is not just about Australia. It puts Australia in the context of the Pacific and Asia with stories of many Pacific Islands including Vanuatu, the Solomon Islands and Papua New Guinea. The exotic Spice Islands of Indonesia and the Philippines come to life on its pages with fighting between the Spaniards and the Moors. The old world of Portugal, Spain and the Netherlands and the new world of Mexico, Central and South America buzz with the adventures that are told including encounters with the Incas. It is a story also of colonialism and the Age of Discovery. As the life of Quiros in Spanish-


his is a highly insightful coverage of the main historical characters in the early European exploration of the South West Pacific, a topic which is virtually unknown to most Australians. Miller deftly contextualises the men: Quiros (‘the Don Quixote of the South sea’), Torres and Janszoon with their voyages in the 16th and 17th centuries. Similarly, she places the actions of these adventurers in the context of the respective Indigenous responses to contact. From the Wik at Aurukun and the Tjungundji and others around (Old) Mapoon on the west coast of Cape York Peninsula, to the descendants at Big Bay on Vanuatu and other Melanesian groups, the author brings the reader up to date with the reconciliation process and the Indigenous perspective on these early European contacts. This is a valuable contribution to not only understanding Australian history, but is also relevant to the Islands of Melanesia, Papua New Guinea and Indonesia.

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The european quest to find terra australis incognita  

This is a highly insightful coverage of the main historical characters in the early European exploration of the South West Pacific, a topic...

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