Ancestors: Chinese in Colonial Australia

Jan Ryan

Fremantle Arts Centre Press 1995
A book review by Danny Yee © 1995
Ancestors is a study of the Chinese in colonial Western Australia, during the final decades of the nineteenth century. It describes the origins of Chinese workers in China, their recruitment via Singapore, their working conditions, and their situation in commercial and criminal law, as well as the general attitudes towards them on the part of the English population. Though the more technical parts have been omitted or put into appendices, Ancestors shows its origins as a PhD thesis. The dependence on archival sources is obvious — chapter two is clearly based on immigration records, chapters six and seven on the civil and criminal legal records, and chapter eight on the record of deaths, for example — but Ryan has done a very good job of producing a readable account from impersonal information, with more personal material used to good effect where available.

Its subject is too specialised for it to have wide appeal, but anyone interested in a unusual perspective on Western Australian colonial history should have a look at Ancestors. It will also be of comparative interest to those studying the Chinese in eastern Australia, or the overseas Chinese diaspora more generally.

May 1995

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%T Ancestors
%S Chinese in Colonial Australia
%A Ryan, Jan
%I Fremantle Arts Centre Press
%D 1995
%O paperback, references, index
%G ISBN 1863681078
%P 191pp