"...for the good of His Majesty's Service"
: the archaeology of Fort Dundas, 1824-1829

  • Colin James De La Rue

    Student thesis: Masters by Research - CDU


    This thesis describes an historical archaeology programme designed to investigate and interpret apparent anomalies between the documentary accounts of the 1824–1829 British settlement on Melville Island and the information conveyed by its physical position and material construction, as demonstrated in the remaining ruins of the settlement.

    Information gained through a part-time project of four years of historical study, and three seasons of archaeological investigation of the settlement is compiled and presented. The archaeological work concentrated particularly on the stronghold, Fort Dundas, to evaluate the military component of the settlement. Both archival and archaeological evidence is considered, and the influences of the world and regional geopolitical context bearing on the British venture are evaluated.

    The thesis argues that, while the documentary evidence outlining the planning for the Melville Island outpost speaks in great part of the establishment of a commercial trading port, the implementation of the project by the Admiralty took the form of constructing an imperialist military station. Examination of the ruins of Fort Dundas and consideration of its geographical location reveal little orientation toward commercial activity, but considerable preparation for defence.

    This interpretation of the Melville Island venture throws doubt on its common description as a ‘failed settlement of the north’. Fort Dundas may more accurately be seen as the instrument of a military gambit, which served its purpose in British imperialist strategy and was retired once its function had been served.
    Date of AwardSep 2006
    Original languageEnglish
    SupervisorClayton Fredericksen (Supervisor)

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