Jim Bain is a great enthusiast for Australian History, with an infectious love of his subject, which has led many to look afresh at our beginnings as a European society. He has done more than spread the word though. He has also contributed financially to the acquisition of a number of significant original works which are key documents in our history and encouraged others to do likewise. In this sense, he is a little like the Dutchman, Nicolaas Witsen, who appears in these pages and who did so much to preserve the records of Dutch discovery.
His book, Uncertain Beginnings, written for those just starting out in Australian history, covers the fascinating story of the search for the Great South Land. It begins with Portuguese exploration in the fifteenth century and includes the contributions of the Spanish, Dutch and French before dealing with the British and their settlement at Sydney Cove in 1788. Jim Bain is very conscious of the importance of this international context, as he makes clear in the book’s subtitle: ‘The remarkable story of how Australia was colonised by the British when it might have easily been the Portuguese, the Spanish, the Dutch, or the French’.
The wide sweep of the book’s contents is combined with the accessible writing style of the author. The book covers all the major events with that enthusiasm forhistory which is Jim Bain’s hallmark.
Paul Brunton
Senior Curator at the State Library of New South Wales November 2007