There is no denying the innovative importance of this book’s detailed and engaging demonstration that place names signify histories – that they do not make
hitherto meaningless places meaningful, as commonsense would suggest, but rather construct historical landscapes. Or to put it another way, the country was not simply already there, waiting to be discovered, but the act of journeying in and around it, mapping it, naming it, is what renders it meaningful. Landscape is, therefore, ‘not a physical object: it is an object of desire, a figure of speech outlining the writer’s
exploratory impulse’ (81). The originality of Carter’s argument was especially timely, arriving as it did on the Australian intellectual scene in 1987, as a prelude to the celebration of the bicentenary of white settlement. He made a major contribution to the ‘de-colonising’ of thought which accompanied the bicentenary, even if he did not convince all his readers that ‘spatial history’ was an entirely new way of writing history.