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Books on the Radical Spirit
of the Eureka Rebellion in 1854

Dr Joseph Toscano - Anarchist Media Institute
All material from the Anarchist Age Weekly Review

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Book Reviews


by John Molony
Melbourne University Press, ISBN 0522849628, 2001 Edition. First published 1984.

Like the author, I've always been fascinated by the role that the Eureka rebellion has had in the evolution of Australian political and social life. Unlike the author John Molony a well known Professor of Australian history, I reject his proposition that "the events of the recent past have brought the republic to the fore and no history of its development can today ignore the contribution of Eureka to an eventual and decisive declaration of independence" and that "it is futile to see the diggers as the initiators of revolution".

The Eureka rebellion in Ballarat in 1854 was a tale woven by many strands. Its significance is much more than has been brought to light today. Eureka by John Molony wires togethers Eueka's skeletal remains. The author has attempted to piece together the events that led to the Eureka rebellion. Methodically he retraces the steps that led to this important point in Australian history. In a little over 200 pages he outlines what happened and who was involved.

The book's weakness lies in its analysis of what happened and why it happened. Its strength lies in its notes and references. Over 280 references are quoted in the book John Molonys Eureka is a useful staring point for those people who want the historical background to the Eureka rebellion.

The events are laid out chronologically and flesh is added to the skeletal frame of many of the participants in the rebellion. The conclusion that the struggle at Eureka was "for human dignity" in my opinion misses the significance of the these events. - Eureka by John Molony 2001. University of Melbourne edition cost $34.95 at Dymocks booksellers. I'm sure you should be able to find earlier editions of this book in second hand bookshops for the cost of a few dollars.


Edited by Ballarat Heritage Services. 1998 ISBN 0 646 35238 5

This interesting 84 paged pamphlet brings together the stories of many of the participants in the 1854 Eureka rebellion, who came to Ballarat in 1904 for the Eureka Jubilee celebrations. The cover of Eureka Reminiscences, a yellowing black and white photograph of about 80 participants in the Jubilee celebrations sitting and standing at the Eureka Monument in Ballarat, gives a human dimension to these historical events.

The reminiscences of the participant's newspaper extracts celebrating the 30th anniversary of the events in 1884 and the Jubilee in 1904 are for the most part disappointing. The two 1884 accounts which appeared in the Ballarat Star convey some of the radical sentiments that caused the Rebellion. The bulk of Eureka Reminiscences is made up articles, which were written by many of the participants that attended the Jubilee celebrations in 1904. Their accounts, personal reflections on the events that in the main seem to be devoid of any political or social content, appeared in the Ballarat Courier, The Melbourne Argus, Geelong Advertiser, The Mount Alexander Mail and the Ballarat Star. The only article from the 1904 collection that stirs any fire in the belly are the reminiscences of John O'Brien, a digger who took part in the fight at the Eureka Stockade in 1854. My personal feeling is that many of the articles sent in for publication in 1904 were heavily edited and the more radical reminiscences, were not published by editors who were ambivalent about the Eureka Rebellion. Fifty years after the Eureka events, debate still raged about whether Jubilee Celebrations should be held for an event which many people in 1904 still believed to be treasonable.

Eureka Reminiscences suffers from the inevitable problem, that first hand accounts that are edited and filtered by a second party are subject to their credit. Ballarat Heritage Services has gone to the trouble of bringing together these accounts in this slim volume. Unfortunately its significance is not as important as I imagined because I believed that Eureka Reminiscences was a first hand account by survivors of the Eureka rebellion, not edited, hand picked newspaper articles that fitted the editorial guidelines of the publishers of newspapers in 1884, 1904 and 1909.

Eureka Reminiscences is available from the publishers, Ballarat Heritage Services, PO Box 2209, Ballarat Mail Centre 3354, VICTORIA AUSTRALIA. Email or can be purchased directly from the Eureka Centre in Ballarat for $12.50 (Australian).


Collected and Introduced by Hugh Anderson Hill of Content Melbourne.. 1st Published 1969. Nat. Library of Aust. Registry Number - Aus69-1857.

This is a hardcover coffee table book of which only a limited number of 500 were ever published. The copy I'm reviewing states "this edition is limited to 500 copies of which this is number 244". It's always interesting and useful to go back to the sources of an important historical event. All too often the analysis we are presented with are the opinions of someone who has based their analysis on the opinions of somebody who may not have even seen the original historical material.

After a lively introduction by Hugh Anderson, we are presented with a host of government proclamations, reports and papers on the Eureka rebellion. Two major weaknesses with the material presented is that material prior to 1854 produced by the Victorian Parliament, is not included in the book and the material presented is not presented in the chronological order of the events as they occurred, but published in the order the material was published by the Victorian government. These defects in the manner the material is laid out, makes it difficult to follow the unfolding saga of the Eureka rebellion.

Considering the significance of the Eureka uprising, I'm surprised by the lack of material that was published by the Victorian government. When you read the account given mainly by government bureaucrats and members of the military, you realise that they were attempting to play down the significance of the uprising at Ballarat. Over and over again the Ballarat rebellion is described as the Ballarat uprisings. The cat is let out of the bag by Captain J.W.Thomas, the Captain commanding troops at Ballaarat (spelling of Ballarat at the time) when he writes to Hotham about the battle of Ballarat on the 3rd December 1854.

"We then advanced quietly towards the entrenchment's where the revolutionary flag was flying"

Reading through the reports and the claims for compensation that occurred after the revolt, it's obvious I'm reading a whitewash of the events that occurred at Ballarat. As we all know the victors write the history books and the vanquished are forgotten. The Victorian Parliamentary Proceedings collected in this book are a salutary reminder that everything that appears in Parliamentary reports are not necessarily true and that in most cases they twist the truth to justify the unjustifiable.

If you want to get a hold of all this government source material in one book your best bet is to contact your local library for a copy or Eureka Victorian Parliamentary Papers, Votes and Proceedings 1854-1867.


Bob O'Brien
1st Published 1992, The Sovereign Hill Museums Association 1998 Edition, ISBN 0 909 874 190

Massacre at Eureka is O'Brien's second book. The author has been involved in radio and television broadcasting and lives at Clunes near Ballarat. Friends have told me he is currently in poor health and is not expecting to live long. Bob had always been interested in what happened at Eureka and in the 1980's gathered material for this book. The material he discovered conclusively shows that the Eureka Rebellion was a massacre. Of the 120 miners in the stockade, around 25% were killed, most after they surrendered. Massacre at Eureka uses source material that has never been published before. After a short introduction by Victoria's State Historian Bernard Barrett and the author, the book opens up with an eyewitness account written by Samuel Huyghue the chief clerk of Robert Rede, the resident commissioner and officer in charge of the Ballarat goldfields. Huyghue's sympathetic account of the rebellion forms the backbone of the book. Huyghue's account was written on his retirement in 1884.

The rest of the book is divided into eleven chapters, the most interesting is chapter 7 Contemporary Views Of The Massacre. In chapter 7, Peter Lalor the leader of the rebellion and Raffaello Carboni a prominent participant tell their stories. While a letter from the Victorian Governor General Charles Hotham to the Secretary of State for the Colonies in London and a letter from Captain John Wellersley the Captain Commanding the troops of Ballarat, outlines the State's story.

Chapter 8 The Stockaders, has some interesting accounts by relatives of those who took part in the rebellion. William Atherden, one of the 114 arrested, was possibly the last survivor of the Eureka Stockade. He died at the age of 96 in May 1934, 80 years after the rebellion.

Massacre at Eureka is more a collection of other people's accounts than a real book. Its strength lies in O'Brien's research abilities. Through diligent pain staking research, he has been able to find accounts by participants who have been ignored by other researchers and authors. The 1998 edition is attractively presented in this easy to read 178-page account of the Eureka Rebellion.

The book is available for $27.50 (Australian) from: The Sovereign Hill Museum Association, Sovereign Hill Post Office, Ballarat 3350, Victoria, AUSTRALIA, Tel:(03) 5331 1944, Fax:(03)5331 1528.


By Raffaello CARBONI, Translated and Annotated by Tony PAGLIARO, Jim Crow Press Daylesford 1993, ISBN 0646153595, 1st Published 1872.

This is one of those books that would have never seen the light of day if it wasn't due to one of those fortuitous events that makes life interesting. Tony Pagliaro an academic from the Italian department at Latrobe University in Melbourne discovered a copy of Raffaello Carboni's book 'Gilburnia' on a Rome street stall in 1990. Raffaello Carboni is well known for his participation in the Eureka rebellion at Ballarat and his written account of that rebellion. Although it was known that he had published another book about his experiences in Australia in 1853-1855 'Gilburna', this book had been thought to have been lost.

Tony Pagliaro's discovery of this work on a Rome street stall and his subsequent translation and publication of this work in 1993 has thrown new light on those forgotten people in the Eureka story the indigenous inhabitants of the land. After a failed bout of digging for gold at Bendigo in 1853, Carboni become a shepherd for one of the local landholders. In late 1853, he made contact with the Tarrang Aborigines near the Victorian town of Maldon. It's unclear whether he camped with them or next to them but their plight touched his heart.

'Gilburnia' a text written in prose was meant to be "a mimed theatrical spectacle with musical accompaniment".

Carboni has in 801 lines of verse been able in 1855 (He wrote this book while in prison in Melbourne awaiting trial for High Treason) to tell the story of Aboriginal dispossession and the effect their loss of land and freedom had on them. He compares the materialistic lifestyle of the miners, casting the leader of the miners Gruno as one of the pantheon of villains the Aboriginals had to contend with, with the Aboriginal's non-materialistic lifestyle. Carboni a keen observer highlights how the British dispossessed the Aboriginals and used the British law to justify their destruction of Australia's indigenous inhabitants.

'Gilburnia' is a fascinating insight into a period of Australian history that is often dismissed, ignored and accepted by mainstream culture because we're told from the Prime Minister down, you can't judge the past by the standards of the present.

'Gilburnia' shows that human rights are universal and timeless. Raffaelo Carboni wrote about indigenous Australians as human beings and as a refugee himself, sympathised with their plight. A subtext within 'Gilburnia' examines the role of women both in indigenous and European culture. In both cases Carboni makes the point that ultimately they are seen and treated as little more than chattels. Interestingly the principal character in Carboni's play _Gilburnia' the daughter of the leader of the Tarrang Aborigines challenges this proposition.

'Gilburnia' has never been performed as a theatrical ballet. As we approach the 150th anniversary of the Eureka rebellion, it's time that this forwarding looking and incisive theatrical production saw the light of day. I'd like to thank my wife Ellen for giving me this book. 'Gilbunia' is available from The BOOKSHELF, 116 BRIDGE RD, RICHMOND 3121, MELBOURNE, AUSTRALIA. Tel:(03) 94282011.

P.S. Interestingly Carboni has incorporated some words from the original indigenous language in this book.
Publisher: Jim Crow Press, P.O. Box 276, Daylesford 3460, AUSTRALIA, Tel/Fax: (053) 487510

Eureka and its Flag

By Len FOX. Introduction & Notes by C. E. SAYERS, Mullaya Publications, 1st Published 1973, ISBN 0-85914004-0

Eureka and its Flag' is one of a plethora of books that have been published over the last 148 years about the Eureka rebellion. After a 20 year study into the fate of the Eureka flag, Len Fox a Sydney journalist, published The Strange Story of the Eureka Flag" in 1963, his efforts were instrumental in having the flag taken out of mothballs and put on permanent display in the Ballarat Art Gallery. Eureka and its Flag' published in 1973 is a re-release of the 1963 booklet.

This 42 page booklet is divided into three distinct sections: The Events of Eureka' (12 pages), The Heritage of Eureka' (3 pages), and The Flag of Eureka' (19 pages), the rest of the booklet is taken up by 4 pages of references and a 4 page index.

Section 3, The Flag of Eureka' initially examines the role flags with the Southern Cross on them, in Australia played, before December 3rd 1854. He then outlines a few theories about who actually designed the flag. After trooper John King tore down the Eureka Flag from the flagpole, it eventually made its way to the High Treason trials in Ballarat. King took the flag to Warrnambool with him and gave it to an Inspector P. H. Smith, who eventually returned the flag to King's family in 1881. In 1895 after a campaign in the Melbourne Argus', James King, John King's son loaned the flag to the Ballarat Art Gallery in November 1895. During this early period, the Eureka Flag had been considered to be evidence of the "shame" of Ballarat and when John King offered it for sale to the trustees of the Melbourne Public Library in 1877, they rejected his offer. The flag was displayed briefly at the Ballarat Art Gallery and then locked away till the author Len Fox examined it in the early 1940's. Fox was told that it was not the original flag and spent the next 20 years digging up information that led to the publication of this booklet and the eventual public display of the Eureka Flag in 1973 at the Ballarat Fine Art Gallery.

Thanks to Steve Reghenzani for providing me with the review copy of this booklet which he picked up at a Melbourne Trash & Treasure market for 10 cents. About the only place you'll find a copy today is he State Library of Victoria.

Eureka Stockade

1948 103 minutes black & white.

British version of the gold miners revolt made by Ealing Studios' Leslie Norman. Stars Chips rafferty & Peter Finch. Gotta be a better version of the event around or is still yet to be made ?

* politics **entertainment

Other Books

All information on this page is from the Anarchist Age Weekly Review. Please support this publication by making a monetary or postage stamp donation to the Anarchist Media Institute, P.O. Box 20, Parkville, Vic, 3052, Australia.

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