Phillip Simpson’s 2020 Historical Guide to New South Wales is a worthy successor to the tradition of nineteenth century gazetteers. As the late Dr Ian Jack wrote in his Foreword:
For a century and a half, historians have been heavily indebted to Robert Whitworth, the editor of Bailliere’s New South Wales Gazetteer and Road Guide. Anyone concerned with the State of New South Wales in the 1860s or before has been readily able to find basic information about every locality, systematically and punctiliously presented … I look forward to putting “Simpson” … alongside “Bailliere”
The Historical Guide concisely records the location, history and development of all identifiable ‘places’, including the State’s smallest settlements, from European settlement to 2020 in alphabetical order. Simpson covers all 141 counties. However, his focus is on the 99.7% of the State outside Sydney because ─ as he explains ─ there are many other publications on Sydney and its suburbs.
The spelling of the place names is generally the same as that used by the Geographical Names Board. County is used as the ‘primary locational indentifier’. Next is the geographical coordinator for each entry followed by distances from the nearest large town or city. Under each entry the following details are recorded: watercourses within 500 metres; smaller or former settlements and subdivisions; the impact of key events; changing population figures over time; descriptions of the public buildings.
The publication of the Historical Guide to New South Wales is an extraordinary undertaking and the author and publisher are to be congratulated for the production of this ‘new “Bailliere”’. It will be an indispensable resource to all interested in the history of New South Wales for many years.
The Historical Guide to New South Wales is available from Australian Scholarly Publishing.
Book Note by Christine Yeats, RAHS Member
Published online 2 August 2021