Francis Armstrong: Thesis

“When the facts change, I change my mind. What do you do, sir?”

John Manyard Keynes (allegedly)

Back in 2013 I wanted to re-invent myself. I had been researching my family history for a few years and I had collected so many interesting facts and stories that I felt I needed to expand my skills in actually presenting this information in a form that was interesting and engaging to some one who wasn’t only me. My first university experience had concluded with a Bachelor of Arts degree in Graphic Design with honours, somewhat over two decades ago. This time I wanted to study History.

But in early 2014 my plans were derailed when in late February I needed to go into hospital for some urgent but routine surgery. It all went wrong. Badly wrong. For all intents and purposes I died on the operating table— was unconscious for quite few days after that— then in hospital for over a month (including  a second operation to fix the things they had botched the first time around). I was in constant discomfort and weak for the six months afterwards. I had wanted a fresh start, but this was not quite what I had in mind… I was probably was not yet fully recovered physically when I started a single Honours year in History at Murdoch University in the second half of 2014, as preparation for a full Master’s degree or even a PhD in Western Australian history.

Francis Fraser Armstrong.

I did successfully complete that Honours degree in 2015, but I have yet to follow up on any postgraduate study. The subject for my thesis was (and no surprise here) a distant ancestor called Francis Fraser Armstrong. Armstrong was one of the first British settlers in Western Australia. He was a teenager when he arrived in 1829 with his family, and was among the first Europeans to learn the language of the Aboriginal people of the region fluently. Thus at a critical juncture in the history of the Colony, he became the official interpreter between the two peoples. Whether he was a force for good or evil, you are going to have to read my thesis yourself to make that judgement.

A lot of good people assisted me in the writing of this work, so it should go without saying than any errors are mine and mine alone. I do stand by the facts as I present them here but I have to acknowledge that new knowledge will most certainly come to light. But these were my thoughts in 2015.

Download pdf of “The Interpreter: The Legacy of Francis Fraser Armstrong”