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Environment and History

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Environment and History

Nature, Progress and the 'Disorderly' Fitzroy: The Vain Quest for Queensland's 'Noblest Navigable River', 1865-1965

Barbara Webster and Steve Mullins

Environment and History 9(2003): 275-299

In the nineteenth century, engineers deformed and reshaped the natural environment in the name of progress, particularly in new settler societies like Australia. This article focuses on attempts, some experimental but all ultimately unsuccessful, to render Queensland's Fitzroy River suitable for large-scale shipping by constructing 'training' walls and dredging intensively. In addition to examining the motivations for these efforts and their environmental legacy, the paper argues that both engineers and men of commerce saw nature as 'untamed' and female and in need of training or 'husbanding' through the application of modern technology, irrespective of the financial cost.

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