The Victorian gold rushes attracted punctilious worthies and sharp operators, but rarely were these characters fused as in the personality of Joseph Anderson Panton, high-minded pillar of society as well as scourge of poor miners and political foes. Panton’s previously unpublished memoirs trace vividly his strange career as itinerant dignitary, severe commissioner and magistrate, vigneron, pastoralist and painter, revealing new and surprising aspects of colonial social life.
‘Hugh Anderson’s meticulous edition of J.A. Panton’s memoirs affords a unique and unforgettable glimpse of Australia in the colonial era. Strength in Battle tells the story of Panton’s journey from Scottish lad and military student to respected young commissioner on the turbulent Bendigo goldfields, his adventures in desolate Mallee country, and a maritime journey to the remote north-west of the continent. This is an endlessly rich, frequently colourful and invariably lively tale, peopled by thrusting settlers chasing independence in a new land, Indigenous people seeking a place in an old one taken from them, and Chinese miners living in a white man’s country where few welcomed their presence. The book is essential reading for anyone who wants to know more about life on the Victorian goldfields, the foibles of the era’s prominent personalities such as Lola Montez and Governor Hotham, and the remarkable society that gold left in its wake.’
Frank Bongiorno FRHistS FASSA, Professor of History, Australian National University