In Josiah Wedgwood’s Sydney medallion, Hope stands on a rock in Sydney Cove, instructing selected Virtues to build a city and to harvest a cornucopia. This allegorical female figure is noble and prescient. Erasmus Darwin’s accompanying poem turned her into an alluring Grecian nymph who not only forecasts the future of the British colony but also presides over the beginning of Time. By January 1901, Hope’s ability to prophesy Australian history was featuring in official speeches.
The Sydney Medallion has been awarded the title of first colonial souvenir. It embodied enlightenment developments in science, art and commerce. Manufactured in 1789, I argue that it signifies a primal moment in the manufacture of colonial history. This presentation will explore how the ‘primitive earth’ of Sydney’s clay became a pliable material for importing narratives of northern antiquity into a deeply storied southern continent.
Ann McGrath AM is the Kathleen Fitzpatrick ARC Laureate Fellow in the School of History, Australian National University, where she holds the position of Distinguished Professor. Recent works include Illicit Love: Interracial Sex and Marriage in the United States and Australia (U Nebraska 2015) which won the NSW Premier’s History Prize, General Category 2016; Long History, Deep Time (with Mary Anne Jebb, ed., ANU Press 2015); and ‘On the Sacred Clay of Botany Bay: Landings, National Memorialization and Multiple Sovereignties’, New Diversities, Vol 19, no 2, 2017. The Laureate program is entitled ‘Rediscovering the Deep Human Past: Global Networks, Future Opportunities.’