Winner of the Foundation of Australian Literary Studies Award
In 1893 almost 500 Australians set out by ship to plant a communist utopia in the heart of Paraguay. Led by socialist journalist and activist, William Lane, their aim was to realise the cherished Australian principles of equality and mateship.
It was not to be. Expulsions and secessions began early; in mid-1894 Lane himself seceded with a loyal minority and founded Cosme, some forty-five miles south of the original settlement, but two years later the new colony had deteriorated and dwindled.
Acclaimed historian Gavin Souter unravels the history of the New Australia movement, exploring the motivations and motives of its members, its organisation, the conflicts and dissension and the final disillusionment. He suggests a number of factors contributing to the venture’s failure, not the least being William Lane’s contradictory personality.
Meticulously researched and based on countless interviews with descendants of the original settlers, A Peculiar People is a work of literary as well as historical value. Winner of the Foundation of Australian Literary Studies award, it brings the fascinating story of idealism, courage and human fallibility to vivid life.