1st Edition

An Environmental History of Australian Rainforests until 1939 Fire, Rain, Settlers and Conservation

By Warwick Frost Copyright 2020
    234 Pages 16 B/W Illustrations
    by Routledge

    234 Pages 16 B/W Illustrations
    by Routledge

    This book provides a comprehensive environmental history of how Australia’s rainforests developed, the influence of Aborigines and pioneers, farmers and loggers, and of efforts to protect rainforests, to help us better understand current issues and debates surrounding their conservation and use.

    While interest in rainforests and the movement for their conservation are often mistakenly portrayed as features of the last few decades, the debate over human usage of rainforests stretches well back into the nineteenth century. In the modern world, rainforests are generally considered the most attractive of the ecosystems, being seen as lush, vibrant, immense, mysterious, spiritual and romantic. Rainforests hold a special place; both providing a direct link to Gondwanaland and the dinosaurs and today being the home of endangered species and highly rich in biodiversity.

    They are also a critical part of Australia’s heritage. Indeed, large areas of Australian rainforests are now covered by World Heritage Listing. However, they also represent a dissonant heritage. What exactly constitutes rainforest, how it should be managed and used, and how much should be protected are all issues which remain hotly contested. Debates around rainforests are particularly dominated by the contradiction of competing views and uses – seeing rainforests either as untapped resources for agriculture and forestry versus valuing and preserving them as attractive and sublime natural wonders. Australia fits into this global story as a prime example but is also of interest for its aspects that are exceptional, including the intensity of clearing at certain periods and for its place in the early development of national parks.

    This book will be of great interest to students and scholars of Environmental History, Australian History and Comparative History.


    1. Fire and Rain: Rainforests, Settler Societies and Frontiers
    2. From Regenwald to Rainforest: Changing Terminology and Meanings
    3. Gondwanan, Aboriginal or European Rainforests? The Evolution and Distribution of Rainforests
    4. European Settlement of Australia’s Wet Frontier, 1788-1914
    5. Clearing the Rainforests: Techniques, Origins and Challenges
    6. The Environmental Impact of Clearing: Regrowth, Pests and Secondary Clearance
    7. Butter (and Sugar): The Search for a Sustainable Staple
    8. Chinese and Pacific Islanders: The White Frontier and the Other, 1880-1920
    9. ‘My Love Is Otherwise’: The Fascination with Rainforests, 1820-1914
    10. Forest Conservation, Water Supply and Transport: Tensions between Governments and Farmers
    11. Rainforest National Parks and Scenic Reserves: Origins, Developments and International Comparisons, 1872-1928
    12. The Lamington Plateau: The World’s First Large Rainforest National Park
    13. Australia Unlimited? Conflicting Visions of Farming, Forestry and Conservation in Uncertain Times, 1918-1939
    14. Afterword: 1939 and Beyond

    Appendix A: The Making of The Land of the Lyre Bird

    Appendix B: Common and Scientific Names of Plants


    Warwick Frost is Professor of Tourism, Heritage and the Media at La Trobe University, Melbourne, Australia. His research interests include environmental history, comparative economic history and the history of national parks and zoos.

    "Frost provides an ecologically informed human history of the rain forests of Australia, from the far north of Queensland to the southern island of Tasmania. [The] main focus is the impact of settlers, white and others, on Aboriginals ecologically, agriculturally, and culturally. He also emphasizes how rain forests have shaped the modern Australian imagination. Frost nicely fills a gap, adopting an interdisciplinary approach that draws from history, literature, and tourism studies, while not ignoring the basics of biology and ecology."

    D. S. Azzolina, University of Pennsylvania, USA, in an excerpt from the April 2022 issue of CHOICE.