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French Connection

Australia's cosmopolitan ambitions

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** Winner, NSW Premier’s History Awards 2022, Australian History Prize **

The French have been integral to the Australian story since European colonisation. Escaped convicts from New Caledonia, wool buyers from Lille, Roubaix and Tourcoing, gold-diggers, artisans, teachers and café owners, they were not always the crème de la crème.

French Connection provides a fascinating insight into how the culture of Frenchness influenced a new nation anxious to prove itself to the world. What did Australian colonists see when they looked to France? How much did the French presence in the Pacific loom over such ideas? And what did the French in Australia themselves make of it all?

Alexis Bergantz uncovers the little known and often surprising history of the French in nineteenth-century Australia and their role in creating a more connected and cosmopolitan nation.

An important contribution to the historical landscape of the French in Australia. It is a much-needed study on identity formation and identity tensions in the context of the French in Australia, in the decades shaping the nation. The book is original in its concept, cleverly devised, scrupulously researched and skilfully written. As such, this rich and vibrant story of the French in Australia is highly readable and will no doubt appeal to scholars and general readers alike.'

Eric Bouvet, Australian Historical Studies

This book offers readers, both general and specialist, a charming, entertaining, yet well researched insight into the role Frenchness has played in how Australians have come to perceive themselves.'

Karin Speedy, History Australia

Contributes significantly to our understanding of the making of Australia and of Australian mythology and history.’

Iain McCalman

In French Connection, Alexis Bergantz transcends ‘contribution’ or ‘ethnic’ history in explaining how Frenchness in Australia was among the ingredients of an antipodean culture that has been more cosmopolitan for much longer than most imagine. This superb cultural history is as stylish as the images of France and Frenchness that it so brilliantly interrogates.'

Frank Bongiorno AM, Professor of History, The Australian National University

French Connections is a lively, spirited and historically informed account of the history and legacy of French–Australian relations. Bergantz deftly weaves together stories of individuals and groups who together paint an intricate portrait of the connections between the two nations. The engaging snapshots rest upon profound and rigorous historical research. French Connections is a significant contribution to this important historiography and will be essential reading for those interested in ‘Frenchness’ and ‘Australianness’.

Natalie Edwards, University of Adelaide

With insight, wit and humour, Alexis Bergantz explores the multi-layered history of the Australian Francophilia and Francophobia detailing how, since the earliest days of English settlement, the French in Australia, and from afar, have played a vital role in shaping the Australian identity. An absorbing read!'

Margaret Sankey, University of Sydney

French Connections provides a lively and well-researched study of the French in late nineteenth-century Australia – from escaped convicts to wealthy wool-buyers – and assesses how France perceived France and its South Pacific territories.’

Professor Robert Aldrich, University of Sydney