Faculty of Education and Arts

Edward Coleridge

CRCAH doctoral candidate 

Mapping Australia Felix or Maps, Myths and Mitchell

Abstract

This project is concerned with themes relating to Mapping, Landscape, Art and Cultural Identity specific to this region, by exploring links and contrasts between: 

  • map making and landscape art with particular reference to Western Victoria 
  • the concept and the reality of "Australia Felix".
  • the contradictions its "discoverer", Thomas Mitchell, revealed in his ambivalent attitude towards the indigenous people and their inevitable displacement and destruction of their culture.
  • the ingenious Ordnance Survey Maps of Britain, which evolved during the Napoleonic Wars in which Mitchell was engaged, and the more meagre maps of Australia which give little sense of the lie of the land.
  • the mysteries contained within the OS maps, in the apparent evidence of ancient alignments, and the lost knowledge of aboriginal interpretation, usage and spiritual understanding of this landscape.
  • Mitchell's artistry as a map maker and his skill as an artist.

Much has been written about Mitchell's life and exploits, including his own publications. His surveying skills are acknowledged, but little analysis has been made of his illustrative artwork, and his magnum opus, the Atlas of the Peninsular War, is virtually unknown. This, the long delayed product of his commission to chart all the battlefields of Wellington's campaigns in Spain and Portugal, the Surveyor General was able to complete when he returned to England in 1837 to produce the accounts of his Australian expeditions. It was published independently by the cartographer James Wyld in 1841. 

No recorded copy of this vast tome exists in Australia, and the only publicly available version lies battered and obscurely catalogued in the British Library. This major work of art by a seminal character in Australia's history requires exposure and exposition.