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Devil Been Walkabout Tonight

The Death Of Burke & Wills At Cooper’s Creek: April - July 1861

Authors: David W. Cameron
Australian History
135mm x 210mm

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This book focuses on the last three months of Robert O’Hara Burke, William John Wills, and John King on Cooper’s Creek. The original expedition which set out in August 1860 was to explore the centre and northern reaches of the Australian continent. The expedition essentially concluded with the death of Burke and Wills on Coopers Creek from starvation and illness in late June and early July 1861.
The tragedy was a sliding doors moment in history.

Burke, Wills, and King arrived back at the famous ‘Dig Tree’ camp site, the same day that this manned outpost decided to pack up and return south towards Menindie. They missed each other by a matter of hours.

Over the last few decades revisionist history has attempted to place Burke, Wills, and the sole survivor King, within the paradigm of ‘stupid, arrogant white fellas’ who ignored the wisdom and help of the Yandruwandha people who had successfully carved out a niche along and around Cooper’s Creek. The story as told by the participants through their diaries, letters, journals, and oral history from members of the Yandruwandha clan tells a completely different story. The three men appreciated that their very survival was dependent on the Yandruwandha and much time was spent trying to keep good relations with the local indigenous clan, with a few odd exceptions.
Overall, relations between the two groups were good, and it was for this reason that King survived with the help of the Yandruwandha people – without them he too would have died.

This book places the death of Burke and Wills, and the generosity and good will of the Yandruwandha clan in its proper historical context.

David W. Cameron

David W. Cameron

David W. Cameron completed his PhD in 1995 and was subsequently awarded an Australian Research Council (ARC) Post Doctoral Fellowship at the Australian National University, followed by an ARC QEII Fellowship at the University of Sydney. He has published a number of books on Australian military history and science and over sixty research papers in […]

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