Lord Sydney - The Life and Times of Tommy Townshend

Lord SydneyTommy Townshend was Lord of the Manor of Chislehurst, living at Frognal. He was an influential politician during a turbulent time in the late 18th century, and took a strong position against the war against America. He served in a number of key roles under the administrations of Lord North and Pitt. As Secretary of State, it was he who recommended the first transportation of British convicts to Botany Bay. Sydney Cove was named in his honour, from which the City of Sydney was named.

Andrew Tink, an Australian politician, has written a biography of Lord Sydney. Sydney has been something of a figure of fun in Australia, but this biography seeks to put his life and achievements in perspective.

You can buy this book from the Society for £15, plus p&p. More...

You can also view a talk by Andrew Tink about Lord Sydney here...

About the Book (from the publisher's website):

Andrew Tink has written a fine new biography of Lord Sydney, promoter of the 1788 settlement of New South Wales and the man for whom our city was named.

Andrew Tink spent nineteen years in the New South Wales Parliament, including eleven as a Shadow Minister and three as Shadow Leader of the House. Had he stayed on he would now be in government of course, but he chose to step down in 2007 to concentrate on his writing. He is a politician who can write; and he understands history better than most. Politicians ought to be good at history (otherwise, as we know, they will be condemned to repeat it) but not that many are, and we think none in recent times has dug quite as deeply as Andrew. Those who read his last book on William Charles Wentworth will already know of his capacity for detailed research and his ability to explain complex details of political alliances and circles of friendship and influence.

The English statesman Thomas Townshend, widely known as Tommy Townshend, eventually Baron and later Viscount Sydney, was the most significant of the proponents of the plan to send the First Fleet to Botany Bay, and the man for whom Sydney Cove was named by Governor Phillip. As Home Secretary in Pitt's government Sydney was the first to announce George III's decision to send out the First Fleet in August 1786. He was directly responsible for the choice of Phillip to command the fleet and to be the colony's first governor. He took an enlightened view to the penal settlement, and much of the philosophy of government practised by Governor Phillip can be attributed to his influence. Sydney's influence as Home Secretary was considerable, all the more remarkable given the slender resources at his disposal. With a total of just 17 staff, including the doorman and a housekeeper, he administered British affairs across the globe. At least three settlements were named in his honour: the colony at Port Jackson, Sydney Town on Norfolk Island and another township in Nova Scotia, so called by grateful loyalists after their champion.

Sydney's reputation as a competent administrator was challenged by Manning Clark, but more recent historians have done much to rehabilitate him. Andrew Tink's biography redresses the balance by offering us a comprehensive insight into Sydney in the context of the difficult political environment of late eighteenth-century Britain. Importantly, this new appraisal demonstrates the close relationship between Sydney and Phillip, and the importance of his influence in the establishment of a penal colony based upon rational and humane principles.