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Title: Bearing Australia's 'beloved burden': recent offerings in Australian convict history
Contributor(s): Roberts, David (author)orcid 
Publication Date: 2009
DOI: 10.1080/14443050902883439
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Abstract: 'Australia's Birthstain: The Startling Legacy of the Convict Era', by Babette Smith, Sydney, Allen and Unwin, 2008, 408 pp., $49.95 (hardback), ISBN 9781741146042. 'A Cargo of Women: Susannah Watson and the Convicts of the Princess Royal', by Babette Smith, 2nd ed., Sydney, Allen and Unwin, 2008, 328 pp., $35.00 (paperback), ISBN 9781741755510. 'Voices from Tocal: Convict Life on a Rural Estate', by Brian Walsh, Tocal, C.B. Alexander Foundation, 2008, 144 pp., $25.00 (paperback), ISBN 9780731306107. 'Closing Hell's Gates: The Death of a Convict Station', by Hamish Maxwell-Stewart, Sydney, Allen and Unwin, 2008, 324 pp., $24.95 (paperback), ISBN 9781741751499. 'Tour to Hell: Convict Australia's Great Escape Myths', by David Levell, Brisbane, University of Queensland Press, 2008, 296 pp., $34.95 (paperback), ISBN 9780702236860. ... If convict history is Australia's 'beloved burden', as Marian Quarterly claims, then in the early years of the new millennium there were relatively few historians willing to share the load. It is now twenty years since Robert Hughes rummaged through the closet of Australia's penal past and paraded its contents before an international audience; twenty years, too, since we were invigorated by the assertive revisionism of the 'Convict Workers' project and the Bicentenary's official ambivalence towards the criminal component of our national story. While these developments briefly re-energised interest in convict history, they also appeared to have exhausted it for a time. Admittedly, some wonderful work arose out of postgraduate research in the years after 2001, and a miscellany was sprinkled through peer-reviewed journals. But otherwise it seemed that the topic had fallen from favour, as if there was little more to be gained from interrogating the most distant chapter of our national story. As an anonymous assessor indelicately noted on my grant application a few years ago, 'surely there can be nothing left to say about convict history'. It was therefore most welcome to see 2008 bring a flurry of new scholarship, with several excellent works exploring the rich and instructive world of Australia's reluctant pioneers.
Publication Type: Review
Source of Publication: Journal of Australian Studies, 33(2), p. 227-236
Publisher: University of Queensland
Place of Publication: Queensland, Australia
ISSN: 1444-3058
Field of Research (FOR): 210301 Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander History
HERDC Category Description: C1 Refereed Article in a Scholarly Journal
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Appears in Collections:Review
School of Humanities, Arts and Social Sciences

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