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eresource update: Frontier Life

Banner - Frontier Life

Do you have an interest in the lives of settlers and indigenous peoples in the early colonies of Australia, North America, Africa or New Zealand?

Frontier Life: Borderlands, Settlement & Colonial Encounters is a fascinating eresource of primary source documents. Glimpse into life in the early colonies through a collection of documents, maps and paintings from the time.

How to Access

You can access eresources in the Library, either by using a Library computer or with your own device connected to the Library’s free wi-fi.

Most eresources are also available outside of the Library, however you must be a New South Wales resident and have a current Library card.

What is Frontier Life?

This database contains digitised copies of many significant primary sources, including First Fleet Journals and despatches of the early Governors from NSW and the other Australian colonies, as reported back to the Colonial Office in the UK. It also contains historic maps and iconic artwork in high resolution images.

It’s a rich resource for academic and personal interest researchers with an interest in colonial Australasia, America, & Africa with its quality, well-described and curated primary source material.

A particularly interesting item contained in this database are the original papers from January 26, 1808, relating to the arrest of Governor Bligh, from the Library's collection (PX*D 332).

The contents listing gives a detailed description of the papers, which include:

  • the iconic watercolour drawing depicting the arrest of Bligh hiding under a bed
  • a letter to George Johnston complaining of Bligh's administration from numerous people with 2 pages of signatures
  • a letter of thanks to George Johnston for intervening and being the protector of property and liberty
Arrest of Governor Bligh January 26, 1808. Copy of the original manuscript documents, ca. 1890's / New South Wales Government Printer, ca. 1890's
View collection item detail

Help with Frontier Life or further research

Frontier Life has a comprehensive help guide, covering topics such as:

  • Getting Started
  • Documents (Browsing, Saving, Printing & Sharing)
  • Searching
  • Further Resources

The Library can also provide support with your research.

  • Research Guides
    • To help you explore our collections, including advice on research, key resources and featured collection items. 
  • Ask a Librarian
    • Contact one of our specialist Librarians, where we can recommend methods and resources to help with your research, find the right resources in the Library's collections and guide you with accessing eresources.

Other eresources

If your curiosity veers more to the nitty-gritty of everyday life in the early Australasian colonies,  Early Experiences in Australasia: Primary Sources and Personal Narratives 1788-1901 is another free eresource available in the Library.

eresource banner - early experiences

This database focuses more on personal accounts and items showing a personal view of life in early colonies throughout Australia and New Zealand, rather than the significant documents of Frontier Life.

It is possible to browse by a large range of subjects, some quite obscure, and read reflections, diaries and letters touching on each subject.

An interesting item in the Early Experiences database is A Guide For Immigrants And Settlers published in 1906. It contains nearly 500 pages of detail about NSW, the climate, industries and potential livelihoods and an amusing account of the fashion scene in the colony.

The State Library also has original copies of this guide in the collection, but the Early Experiences in Australasia eresource provides a full version you can read online.