Helen J. English. Music and World-Building in the Colonial City: Newcastle, NSW, and Its Townships, 1860–1880

Book review by Samantha Owens 

New Zealand School of Music – Te Kōkī, Victoria University of Wellington – Te Herenga Waka

Context 48 (2022): 109–12.

Published online: 31 Jan. 2023


As Helen English rightly acknowledges early on in her wonderfully detailed study of music making in nineteenth-century Newcastle and its surrounds, while the area’s European settlers engaged enthusiastically in ‘building individual and collective worlds,’ their ‘world-building’ simultaneously (and violently) destroyed the country and lifestyle of the local Awabakal people (pp. 2, 29). In stark contrast, the locations covered in this book—the coalmining city of Newcastle, the pastoral settlement of Maitland, and a number of small towns nearby (among them Lambton, Wallsend, and Waratah, now all suburbs of Newcastle)—were all thriving by the 1860s. While there was a certain degree of demographic diversity between these settlements— Newcastle, for example, was chiefly home to miners, tradesmen, and itinerant port workers, compared to Maitland’s landowners and small-scale farmers—one feature they all shared was the significant amount of music-making that occurred within their communities. […]

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DOI: https://doi.org/10.46580/cx89103