The Invention of 'Australia's Little Cornwall'
Subjects: British History, Cornish Studies, History, South-West Studies
Winner of the 2008 Holyer An Gof Award for non-fiction. An investigation of the popular tradition of ‘Australia’s Little Cornwall’: how one town in South Australia gained and perpetuated this identity into the twenty-first century. This book is about Moonta and its special place in the Cornish transnational identity. Today Moonta is a small town on South Australia’s northern Yorke Peninsula; along with the neighbouring townships of of Wallaroo and Kadina, it is an agricultural and heritage tourism centre. In the second half of the nineteenth century, however, Moonta was the focus of a major copper mining industry.
This book is about Moonta and its special place in the Cornish transnational identity. Today Moonta is a small town on South Australia’s northern Yorke Peninsula; along with the neighbouring townships of of Wallaroo and Kadina, it is an agricultural and heritage tourism centre. In the second half of the nineteenth century, however, Moonta was the focus of a major copper mining industry.
From the beginning, Moonta cast itself as unique among Cornish immigrant communities, becoming ‘the hub of the universe’ according to its inhabitants, forging the myth of ‘Australia’s Little Cornwall’: a myth perpetuated by Oswald Pryor and others that survived the collapse of the copper mines in 1923—and remains vibrant and intact today.
List of illustrations, ix; Preface, xi; 1. 'The largest Cornish communities beyond Land's End': Making Moonta's Cornish myth, 1; 2. 'Wherever a hole is sunk in the ground': Moonta and Cornwall's great emigration, 32; 3. The cult of Captain Hancock: The man and his mines, 63; 4. 'Cornwall was never conquered yet': Moonta's working-class heroes, 97; 5. 'Moonta toil and Moonta gain': Women, Methodists and the triumph over adversity, 130; 6. 'Moonta's little, but she's great': The enduring myth, 166; 7. 'The world's largest Cornish festival': The myth revived, 192; Epilogue, 222; Notes, 229; Index, 255.
‘Although academic in feel, this lavishly illustrated book is a highly readable account of the myth of “Little Cornwall”.’ (BBC Who do you think you are?, March 2008) ‘Detailed and sympathetic [...] this is a book to be savoured and treasured by anyone interested in the great phenomenon of Moont and Australia’s Little Cornwall, and in the Cornish diaspora in general.’ (Cornish Banner, May 2008)
‘Payton tells his story with verve, a fine eye for detail and a nice sense of human idiosyncracies. His work can be read in diverse ways, for it makes multipkle contributions: to migration studies, to regional studies, to identity studies. But above all it offers a vivid portrait of the lived experience of a remarkable community. This is a gem of a book.’ (David Goldsworthy, National Library of Australia, Reviews in Australian Studies, Vol. 3, No 2, 2008)
‘Philip Payton’s book Making Moonta is a must for all historians, not only those with a mining interest. Perhaps the most telling point in the book is in the preface, in which he states that his book ‘is about Australia more generally, and contributes to the way in which we now read and write about Australian history’.’ (Barry McGowan, Journal of Australasian Mining History, Vol. 6, September 2008)
‘The book is well presented with interesting illustrations and gives an absorbing insight into the experience of some of the thousands of emigrants who left Cornwall in the nineteenth century. This is a fascinating and informative book about emigration, mining, the foundation of new communities, and the maintenance and preservation of pre-emigration society in a new setting.’ (Margaret Shepherd, British Association for Local History Online Review, www.balh.co.uk, December 2008)
‘a book that is easy to read and well crafted.’ ‘a valuable contribution to an understanding of the Cornish and their broader contribution to Australia’ (Peter Donovan, Labour History, No. 95, November 2008)
Philip Payton is Professor of Cornish & Australian Studies, University of Exeter, and is Director of the Institute of Cornish Studies at the University’s Cornwall campus. He has written widely on Cornwall and the Cornish; he is the author of A.L. Rowse and Cornwall: A Paradoxical Patriot (UEP, 2005, paperback 2007) and The Cornish Overseas: A History of Cornwall’s Great Emigration. He is a frequent visitor to Australia, where he has conducted extensive research and addressed numerous conferences.
Making Moonta - The Invention of 'Australia's Little Cornwall' - Hardback cover