The Fatal Shore: The epic of Australia's founding Paperback – Feb 12 1988
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An extraordinary volume--even a masterpiece--about the early history of Australia that reads like the finest of novels. Hughes captures everything in this complex tableau with narrative finesse that drives the reader ever-deeper into specific facts and greater understanding. He presents compassionate understanding of the plights of colonists--both freemen and convicts--and the Aboriginal peoples they displaced. One of the very best works of history I have ever read. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
From Library Journal
For 80 years between 1788 and 1868 England transported its convicts to Australia. This punishment provided the first immigrants and the work force to build the colony. Using diaries, letters, and original sources, Hughes meticulously documents this history. All sides of the story are told: the political and social reasoning behind the Transportation System, the viewpoint of the captains who had the difficult job of governing and developing the colonies, and of course the dilemma of the prisoners. This is a very thorough and accurate history of Australian colonization written by the author of the book and BBC/Time-Life TV series The Shock of the New . A definitive work that is an essential purchase for both public and academic libraries. BOMC and History Book Club main selections. Judith Nixon, Purdue Univ. Libs., W. Lafayette, Ind.
Copyright 1986 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
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Hughes tells the story of the discovery of Australia, the decision of Great Britain to "transport" its convicted to the continent, the various kinds of lives the convicts found there, the aboriginal settlers and their treatment by the newcomers, and the ultimate creation of a new society. There are harrowing accounts of the passage from Britain to Australia in the convict ships, and still shocking accounts of the secondary places of punishment created in Australia for repeat offenders -- places such as Norfolk Island, Port Aurthur, and Macquarrie Bay. Hughes describes these nineteenth century camps as precursors of the Gulag in our own time, and I am afraid he is correct. They reminded me to of Andersonville Prison in our own Civil War but on a much broader, more wicked scale. The description of the prisons and barbaric punishments were to me the most vivid portions of the book.
Besides the horror stories, there is a great deal of nuanced, thoughtful writing in the book about the settlement and building of Australia and of the dangers of facile over-generalization about how the convicts fared, or about virtually any other historical subject.Read more ›
Prior to this work, Robert Hughes had authored books on art, and is generally known as an art critic and a documentary maker. This work of history seems to be an unusual diversion from his typical interests, but as he explains in his introduction, it was while doing a series of documentaries on Australian art which took him to Port Arthur that he realized that he knew little of his country's convict past. His documentary work undoubtedly played a key role in his making this one of the more readable histories there is, and led to "The Fatal Shore" becoming an international best-seller.
He starts by discussing the conditions in England which led to the transportation of criminals to the opposite side of the world, the theories about there being a "criminal class", and the loss of the Americas as a dumping ground for British criminals. Another key point is the sentencing which was used at the time which resulted in people with a wide variety of criminal convictions, from petty theft to murder all being selected, without regard to whether or not they would be able to provide any valuable service to the colonies which were to be created.
Next Hughes discusses the first fleet, from the difficult passage, both for prisoners and free people, to the arrival and the dealings with the Aborigines to the difficult first years of the colony; it is an engaging tale which reads like a novel.Read more ›
Most recent customer reviews
Not finished yet. A too long description of the justice business in England in 18th century.Published 14 months ago by Andre McClure
I'm off to Australia for six weeks over Christmas and this book is required reading for me. It's so well-written and easy to read, full of fascinating detail about the country's... Read morePublished on Oct. 7 2009 by E. Godley
I read this book in anticipation of a trip to Australia, and indeed it was an excellent backdrop to travel there. Read morePublished on Jan. 12 2004 by C H Miller
*The Fatal Shore* was originally recomended when I entered the criminal justice field, and is one of the few books I've ever read in one sitting. Read morePublished on Jan. 11 2004 by Scott W. Talkington
This is a warped and nihilistic view of Australia - which is probably the happiest and most successful society in the world, and with an unbroken record of peaceful democracy and... Read morePublished on Nov. 1 2003 by Susan Norton
When you think about fiction you naturally look at various levels of interpretation. From the plot downwards to author's subconscious and upwards towards historical-social-critical... Read morePublished on Dec 31 2002 by R. M. Williams
This book is the gruelling story of the transportation of convicts from Britain to Australia, told at great length and in great detail. Read morePublished on July 7 2002 by MR G. Rodgers
Hughes has written the definitive work on the founding of the British colony in Australia. He spends just enough time discussing the social woes of the United Kingdom that lead to... Read morePublished on July 1 2002 by Glenn McDorman
Spurred on by Down Under (by Bill Bryson), I found this book already on my shelves and decided to give Australian history a fighting chance. Read morePublished on March 18 2002 by Stephen Paul Ryder