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Title: Opinion: 'More sinned against than sinning': George Arnold Wood and the noble convict
Contributor(s): Roberts, David (author)orcid 
Publication Date: 2008
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Abstract: Provoked by the looming Bicentennial commemoration/celebration, and by the fiercely nationalist Hawke-Keating government, the reputation of Australia’s convicts received something of a reappraisal in the 1980s. No longer were they the criminal class of Clark’s imagining, or the oppressed whores of Summers’ feminist argument, but innocent village hampdens who had been convicted for the theft of a loaf of bread with which they hoped to feed their starving family. The image of Australians being sinned against by Britain (again) suited the Keating agenda, as well as the thousands of amateur genealogists who were beginning to research their family trees. But the idea was a not a new one. As early as the 1920s George Arnold Wood, professor of history at the University of Sydney, argued that Australia’s convicts, far from being a professional class, were rather victims of immoral social inequality and of an unjust legal system. The argument might not have persuaded the academic historians of the twentieth century, but his convict ideal retained an enduring popular appeal. David Roberts traces here the origins of Wood’s important thesis and the controversy it provoked.
Publication Type: Book Chapter
Source of Publication: Making Australian History: Perspectives on the Past since 1788, p. 122-130
Publisher: Thomson Learning Australia
Place of Publication: South Melbourne, Vic.
ISBN: 0170132102
Field of Research (FOR): 210303 Australian History (excl Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander History)
HERDC Category Description: B1 Chapter in a Scholarly Book
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Appears in Collections:Book Chapter
School of Humanities, Arts and Social Sciences

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