And the lost are a brutalised Tasmanian tribe rounded up like cattle. The history of the slaughter is documented as it is the work of George Augustus Robinson, one time London “carpenter cum preacher” turned colonial official who was entrusted with the Crown’s dirty work, that of removing the remaining Aboriginal people from Tasmania. Most of them had already been butchered.
In Flanagan’s version he emerges as a righteous little fellow who accepts the title of “The Protector”. Robinson herds the survivors into camps, intent on imposing civilisation, merely to demonstrate a breathtaking insensitivity towards their culture. “Though he was weaning them off their native diet of berries and plants and shellfish and game, and onto flour and sugar and tea, their health seemed in no way comparable to what it had been. And the more they took to English blankets and heavy English clothes, abandoning their licentious nakedness, the more they coughed and spluttered and died.”