The English Dane: From King of Iceland to Tasmanian Convict

The English Dane: From King of Iceland to Tasmanian Convict

Hardback

By (author) Sarah Bakewell

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Paperback $12.19
  • Publisher: CHATTO & WINDUS
  • Format: Hardback | 336 pages
  • Dimensions: 158mm x 234mm x 36mm | 599g
  • Publication date: 3 March 2005
  • Publication City/Country: London
  • ISBN 10: 0701173408
  • ISBN 13: 9780701173401

Product description

Jorgen Jorgenson was a Dane who made Britain his adopted country, and became caught up in its story at opposite ends of the earth. The son of a Copenhagen clockmaker, inspired by his hero Captain Cook, he came to London. Here he became a sailor and at twenty-three was among the small party sent to establish a new colony - Tasmania. Twists of fortune found him captaining a ship for Napoleon against Britain: captured, his life was under threat. He escaped execution, but next a pile of London gambling debts drove him to sail with British traders to Iceland. Now comes his long-dreamed of moment of glory. When Danish officials in Iceland bar their trade, Jorgensen and his fellows (including the young botanist William Jackson Hooker) simply stage a coup. For seven summer months Jorgensen rules Iceland, proclaiming it free from Danish rule, its ancient rights restored and 'at peace with all the nations of the world'. A British warship arrives, and his rule is at an end, but on the voyage home, Jorgen is a hero once more, saving them all from a fire at sea. He was not yet thirty. Much lay ahead, from imprisonment in the hulks, patronage by the British establishment, and travels in Europe as a British spy. But Jorgensen was dogged by his own excesses, and spiralled downwards to prison again, until he was transported as a convict to Tasmania, the colony he helped to found. Here his second life began. He became a mighty explorer, cutting through the bush across icy mountains and flooded rivers. Despite his sympathy for the people, he was caught up in the 'Black Line' and the terrible Aboriginal clearances - movingly described here. Finally he won freedom and status and fame, before drink and a violent marriage dragged him down again. It's a great story - all the ripping yarns you need rolled into one, and a real eye-opener about the workings of power at the birth of the British empire.

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Author information

Sarah Bakewell was until recently a Curator at the Wellcome Institute Library, London. She recently curated an exhibition with Marina Warner for the Science Museum and is the author of The Smart. She spent part of her childhood & adolescence in Australia, where her parents now live.

Review quote

'Bakewell is superbly matched to the task. Her account of the world encountered by Jorgenson is as rich and nuanced as her description of his life', Independent .'Precise, amusing and intriguing.A vivid and moving portrait of an extraordinary but flawed man', Daily Telegraph