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Elizabeth and John

The Macarthurs of Elizabeth Farm

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A landmark and revealing joint biography of Elizabeth and John Macarthur, from one of Australia’s most respected historians.

Arriving in 1790, Elizabeth and John Macarthur, both aged 23, were the first married couple to travel voluntarily from Europe to Australia, within three years of the initial invasion. John Macarthur soon became famous in New South Wales and beyond as a wool pioneer, a politician, and a builder of farms at Parramatta and Camden. For a long time, Elizabeth’s life was regarded as contingent on John’s and, more recently, John’s on Elizabeth’s.

In Elizabeth and John, Alan Atkinson, prizewinning author of Europeans in Australia, draws on his work on the Macarthur family over the last 50 years to explore the dynamics of a strong and sinewy marriage, and family life over two generations. With the truth of John and Elizabeth Macarthur’s relationship much more complicated and more deeply human than other writers have suggested, Atkinson provides a finely drawn portrait of a powerful partnership.

Elizabeth and John is a truly amazing work of history. A triumph. This is historical scholarship at its dazzling best. Beautifully produced and written, Alan Atkinson’s intimate portrait of Elizabeth and John Macarthur’s marriage also opens windows on to the wider worlds of 18th century England, the European Enlightenment and early New South Wales during the years of the British invasion and occupation. Attentive to his subjects’ inner selves and sensibilities and the imperatives of an imperial and patriarchal order, Atkinson’s book is truly a tour de force.’ — Marilyn Lake

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