Thesis abstract ‘Dependent Colonies: The Importation of Material Culture land the Establishment of a Consumer Society in Australia before 1850’

22nd November 2013

Mark Staniforth

PhD, Department of Archaeology, Flinders University, Adelaide, August 1999

This thesis uses an archaeological perspective to examine the ways in which a consumer society became established in the Australian colonies between 1788 and the middle of the 19th century. It argues that in order to successfully colonise places like Australia it was necessary to establish trade networks that provided adequate supplies of culturally ‘appropriate’ food, drink and other consumer goods for the newly arrived population. This thesis suggests that there were three inter-related reasons why newly arrived colonists needed material culture and its associated meanings: first, to distinguish themselves from Indigenous groups; second, to reassure themselves about their place in the world; and third, to help establish their own networks of social relations. It contends that the role of consumption and the part played by material goods were more important to the negotiation of social position in the colonies than in the homeland. Furthermore this thesis demonstrates that four principal factors structured consumer preference: the quantity, variety, type and quality of goods available to them.

This research is concerned with the symbolic and cognitive meanings: the underlying, or embedded, meanings as well as the meanings that were attached food, drink and other consumer goods. It provides a theoretical and methodological model for the systematic analysis of consumer goods that can be used to better understand cultural aspects of colonial settlement. The analytical framework draws on applications of Annales approaches to archaeology in what is termed the ‘archaeology of the event’ and the holistic approach undertaken in this thesis places the specificity of the event within the wider social context.

This thesis integrates both maritime and historical archaeology in order to follow the life trajectories of artefacts and to explore their changing meanings over time and between cultures. A major part of the archaeological data used in this research is drawn from the assemblages of four post-settlement shipwrecks excavated in Australian waters during the past 30 years: Sydney Cove, James Matthews, William Salthouse and Eglinton.

Staniforth, M.
Thesis abstract 'Dependent Colonies: The Importation of Material Culture land the Establishment of a Consumer Society in Australia before 1850'
December 2000
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Thesis Abstracts
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