9780002173612 / 0002173611

The Fatal Shore: History of the Transportation of Convicts to Australia, 1787-1868


Publisher:The Harvill Press



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About the book:

Australia's rst white settlers came ashore from a British prison eet in Botany Bay in 1788. Before them lay an almost unknown land: unexplored, unexploited, and yet to be the scene of the most extraordinary social experiment then imagined - the creation of a prison camp in the South Pacic for an entire criminal class. It was, as this brilliantly written account of the convict transportation system argues, the sketch for the twentieth-century Gulag.

This book follows convict transportation from the squalor of Georgian Britain and its obsessive fear of mob violence to the grim prison hulks - Noah's Arks of small-time criminality - that disgorged their human cargoes into the most elaborate penal system the world had ever seen. Many of those who survived the rst eets were condemned to starvation, disease and horrifying brutality, and yet within eighty years Australia became a promised land to which people have ocked ever since.

In describing Australia's painful transition from prison camp to open society, Robert Hughes draws on a wealth of documents, private and official, never before consulted. They give vivid testimony to the most complete account yet written of how 160,000 men, women and children, some innocent, some not, but all united by their helplessness and criminality, were shipped off the face of the known world to suffer, to die, to succeed and go on to found a new nation. This is history on an epic scale, told with immense energy and panache.

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