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  • The British World and an Australian National Identity: Anglo-Australian Cricket, 1860–1901 by Jared Van Duinen
  • Jon Gemmell
Van Duinen, Jared. The British World and an Australian National Identity: Anglo-Australian Cricket, 1860–1901. London: Palgrave. 2018. Pp. 85. Index. $54.99, hb. $39.99, eb.

Between 1853 and 1920, over 1.5 million Britons emigrated to Australia, not all out of choice. The first Australian settlers consisted of officials and guards, free settlers, and convicts. They included political prisoners and casualties of industrialism, rural poverty, and famine. Many owed little allegiance to the governing class in London. The aim of Jared van Duinen’s work is to assess how these people came to form a national identity and how it was shaped by a sense of Britishness and, in particular, the role of cricket.

The period of study focuses on the years leading to political federation in 1901 and, as with any serious analysis on this topic, has to consider the approach of William Mandle, who argued in a 1973 essay that the triumph of an Australian cricket team over the “mother country” helped foster a distinct sense of togetherness that paved the way to political federation. Others have disputed this claim and have used cricket to note the centrality of Britain to Australian culture and identity. Clubs adopted Anglo names, while the touring captain, Heathfield Stephenson, described Australia in 1861 as “so thoroughly English that I could almost imagine we were still home” (20).

The 1878 side had “Australian Eleven” emblazoned on their equipment bag, twenty-three years before political union. Their manager, John Conway, hoped that the colonial cricket associations would put aside differences and promote cricket as a national undertaking. In an attempt to further promote cooperation between the colonies, Lord Sheffield paid for a trophy on England’s 1891–92 tour. This was named after him, and its design highlighted Anglo-Australian relations, including not only a picture of Sheffield’s personal ground but his coat-of-arms as well, alongside the kangaroo and emu of Australia.

Tours also helped stimulate cricket in England. Following one contest between the two rivals, Lillywhite’s Annual noted that England’s amateur players needed to spend as much time on their bowling and fielding as they did on their batting. This marks an emphasis in the book on social class. Early Australian tours to England made large sums for those chosen to play, and this upset the English authorities, as the Australians considered themselves as amateurs. Certain newspapers considered that playing for money was against the true spirit of the game. The colonial press retorted with reminders of the funding arrangements of the first English tours: the Australians were simply adopting the English practice.

The Australians were also noted for their distinctive way of playing. They had a superior fielding unit but also played a more risk-free type of game than the amateur carefree approach of the English. In the 1890s, their style was described as dull, yet this criticism again harked back to playing for financial reward rather than a greater moral purpose. Australian batter Monty Noble, in turn, criticized how class was entrenched in English cricket and expressed particular bafflement with separate buildings for amateurs and professionals. The manager of the 1899 side, J. H. Phillips, argued that such divisions were detrimental to English cricket.

The more egalitarian approach of the Australians marked the key difference between the cricketing cultures of the colony and the metropole. I would like to have seen more [End Page 387] on this. An attempt, for example, in the 1860s to replicate the Gentlemen versus Players matches was abandoned as unnecessary. The belief in the “right sort” to provide leadership was “unAustralian,” and both early state sides and the national eleven elected their own captain. The Irish were the second largest group to migrate to Australia. The batting all-rounder Tom Horan hailed from County Cork and played in the first-ever “Test against England” in 1877, as did John Blackham, also of Irish descent, who became Australian captain. I would be interested in the author’s thoughts on the contribution of the Irish to the Australian...


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