James Stirling, first governor of Western Australia and imperial investor

Admiral James Stirling arrived on Noongar land in 1829 to proclaim it the British colony of Western Australia. Officially, he represented the British government. Unofficially, he represented the commercial interests of his family, a collection of British naval officers, East India Company administrators and directors, imperial merchants, shipping magnates, their wives and their descendants. Stirling pursued the colony as an investment opportunity, first with the Colonial Office and then through land selections, the manipulation of market conditions and private capital-raising schemes. This pursuit was shaped by three, interrelated social phenomena. Firstly, numerous strands of his family had become wealthy through transatlantic and Caribbean slavery. Secondly, British government incentives for establishing a colony on the western side of Australia strengthened at the same time as it was shifting away from the ‘slave colonies’ and certain forms of unfree labour. And third, this shift placed pressure on the Stirling family to secure new income streams to maintain affluence and power. This seminar will explore these dynamics and ask: in what ways does the intergenerational biographical method expand and enliven, or alternatively risk reducing, our understanding of the legacies of British slavery in the Australian settler colonies?

This talk is part of the Western Australian Legacies of British Slavery project, being undertaken in collaboration with the National Centre of Biography.

* The talk will commence at 3 pm AEST (12 pm AWST) and go for about an hour.

Date & time

Thu 18 Mar 2021, 3pm




Georgina Arnott


National Centre of Biography



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