Publication Details

Steel, F. (2011). Urbanizing frontiers: Indigenous peoples and settlers in 19th-century pacific rim cities [Book Review]. Aboriginal History, 35 211-213.


In Australia, classical notions of the frontier and its associated histories of invasion, displacement and violence would tend to point us towards the outback or the bush rather than the urban centres where most of us live today. Penelope Edmonds thoroughly unsettles this notion of a distant frontier by moving it back to the edges of the continent, to the port towns where Europeans first landed and where most of them remained. The frontier was not simply 'out there', synonymous with the unruly boundaries of an expanding pastoral economy, but very close to home. This reorientation recognises that our cities were indigenous spaces from the time of European settlement and, in turn, it understands 'Aboriginal histories as urban histories' (p. 238). It also challenges more conventional accounts in which Aboriginal people 'exit the scene' in the early nineteenth century, only to return to urban areas as 'new migrants' in the twentieth century.