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  • The Fatal Shore: The epic of Australia's founding
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  • 12 August 2019
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9 thoughts on “The Fatal Shore: The epic of Australia's founding

  1. says:

    A massive telling of the history of the British colonization of the islands of Australia Norfork Island and Van Diemen's land now known as Tasmania from the 1780's through the 1860'sThe subtitle says the Epic of Australia's Founding' and boy does it deliver The records that Mr Hughes utilized letters from those sent there as convicts as well as voluntarily residents reports to government ministers memoirs of survivors are only some of the sourcesEngland didn't want to build prisons and they could no longer 'dump' the criminal element onto the American colonies so their criminals would be transported to Australia To serve their sentences providing hard manual labor in an attempt to drive the criminal element out of them as well as provide a service to the Crown The sentences were extreme 5 7 years for the most minor petty thefts no matter if it was an adult or child Families were separated and the government's actions to punish the so called breadwinner and sending him thousands of miles away usually led the mother into prostitution and the children to minor thievery in order to survive Which in turn led to the wealthy and gentry to view that the poor were automatically criminal and being thieves etc was genetic There are no numbers of how many people starved or resorted in crime in order to survive afterwardsAnd as much as he may want otherwise Hughes is brutally honest about what the convicts went through as well as the aboriginal people It is a horrific insight in the harsh environment as well as the vicious cruelty that the convicts endured and after a while the reader may become desensitized to the abuse these men endured Not saying that some of them managed to serve out their sentences and eventually become productive and prosperous residents of the colony because many didIt is also the sanctimonious attitude of the soldiers parsons governors and other officials toward the convicts that can grate on modern sensitivities The concept that criminal activities were genetic that whipping abuse starvation and other violence could drive 'evil' out and make these former convicts 'good' model citizens is now seen as ludicrous but was prevalent at that timeThere are two items that did make it a bit confusing thoughOne The various names of the residents the Merinos sheep owners; the Specials educated; the Currency children born there; the Exclusives settlers; the Emancipists pardoned former convict among others made it confusing A listing of the definitions would have been appreciatedTwo Hughes skips around a bit when moving between the three main locations New South Wales Van Diemen's Land Norfolk Island as well as others Admittedly he tries to complete a specific period of time 'here' before moving over to 'there' and repeat the happenings during the same or similar time period It becomes a bit confusing especially when governors keep changing back and forthOverall Hughes provided a massive amount of information creating this wonderful history of Australia's founding which some may find it overly dense reading but in turn it provides some insight on the current peopleNote This same review is posted on GoodReads


  2. says:

    The Fatal Shore delivers precisely what the subtitle promises the Epic of Australia's FoundingThe reader like the convicts of the time is transported to this land The risks taken to begin white settlement were beyond comprehension perhaps like a decision today to colonize another planet But there is to the history of this place than itself This book also taught me few surprising bits about America around the time of the Revolution and a great deal about the English Scots and Irish as Hughes recreates the period of time in Great Britain that gave birth to this movement of manThe hardships of early antipodean life would be all that you could ask humans to endure if they had only to endeavor each day to secure food and shelter But these folk had to perform those basics while managing a state of criminals governing a budding nation and dealing with rules made by persons nearly a year distant by the best means of travel availableThe almost unimaginable conditions are carefully and vividly detailed by Hughes His task was particularly difficult given the parsimonious records from 18th and 19th centuries that survived and the apparent lack of interest in the Australian past that existed for the first 150 years after settlement The author clearly worked on a labor of love and a penchant of need he felt to write this storyYou read this book for its history but relish much There is a range of vocabulary employed which stretches your mind There are individual stories that sometimes chill you to the bone and other times make your heavy heart warmOne story he recounts is of William Charles Wentworth born upon arrival in the new colony went to school in England and came back to New South Wales in 1810 In 1816 he set off to England again to study law His aims were large He would study the British Constitution so that he could draft one for Australia That's a mission statement few would subscribe themselves to achieveThe fun of this epic is that the Wentworth story is seasoned with a phrase from Hughes that makes the reader's mind perk up and take notice He says Wentworth wound up his law studies in London and went to Cambridge This was merely to brown the crust as he did not work for a degree I enjoyed a great many entertaining passages in this ilk When finished with this epic you'll have all the facts you need to know Why Australia evolved the way it did England's environment that effected colonization How it started The First Fleet The workings of the Assignment System of convict labor The central or interesting roles played by a common criminals; b politicalsocietal criminals; c Aboriginies; d the Irish; e bushrangers; f English Governors of AustraliaPlus you get acuainted with other noteworthy people historical views of the colonization system and lasting influences of the early Australian experience Devour this book slowly and judiciously letting the writing give you both knowledge and feeling


  3. says:

    Robert Hughes's The Fatal Shore is an epic piece of research that goes through the layers of colonial Australian history by each population that made up Australian colonial society You will come away with a great understanding of how each group common criminals political prisoners military officers on the outs profit seekers aborigines and others all interacted with each other to create the tapestry of Australian societyTwo critiues however First the book is not chronological and at times my head spun from the many jumps in time and location I found myself flipping back to earlier chapters as I worked through the book to remind myself what happened in a given decade Second I felt like the author lost steam in his narrative about 14 to 12 way through each section He presents a great deal of information but the reading is tedious at timesAll in all a very good read


  4. says:

    I read this story in preparation for a trip to Australia and New Zealand It is well written and well documented but it is a grim story I am glad I read it but actually I had to start skimming it and interspersing it with joyful stories It is a tale of cruelty often man's inhumanity to man But it is a story that needs to be known as the first settlers of Australia lived this life and endured the hardships related here When I visit the countries I will have a better understanding of the foundation of their world


  5. says:

    This is a vast erudite extremely well researched history of Australia from the arrival of the first convict ship to after the last one Although a large tome of non fiction it is immensely entertaining and readable Anyone wanting to know about the beginning of the Australian nation need look no further


  6. says:

    The Fatal Shore has two main subjects that are inextricably linked a comprehensive history of the Transportation system used by Great Britain to dispose of its `criminal classes' and an eually comprehensive history of the founding of Australia In many ways these stories are the same as Hughes shows that without Transportation there may never have been a white English speaking Australia at allThe scope of the book is huge beginning with the crisis in crime and punishment in Georgian Great Britain and Captain Cook's initial discovery of the east coast of Australia moving through to the story of the First Fleet and the difficulties faced by the first settlersHughes then looks at several subjects in detail such as the development through time of the actual voyage between Great Britain and Australia which went from being unthinkably difficult to begin with to relatively comfortable by the end of the period in uestion and a look at the types of people who made up the `convicts' Separate chapters look at the stories of the escapees and `bushrangers' the sexual habits of the people on board the ships and in the colonies including mistresses prostitution and homosexuality and the various means of control exercised by the authorities to try to keep these people under control from `assignment' to chain gangs and corporal punishmentAs the book moves on we get a detailed survey of the various nascent states the relatively prosperous New South Wales and the desperately poor Van Diemen's Land the special penal colonies set up in places such as Norfolk Island and Port Arthur and the ending of the system which coincided with and was accelerated by the discovery of gold The effect on the indigenous population is discussed from the almost comic first meeting on the beach at Botany Bay to their surprising use as `convict hunters' in later years and the tragedy of the effect that white settlement had on their traditional way of lifeThroughout the book the picture emerges of a harsh land peopled by hard people At many points the treatment of the convicts is described in unflinching detail and there is surely little doubt that in some cases the people in charge were far unpleasant than the people under their control If it wasn't for the horrific treatment that they suffered for it some of the prisoner's insolence in the face of barbaric punishment would be almost admirable However it is also clear throughout the book that in Hughes' opinion life in Australia even as a convict might well be preferable to the life that the English poor would have had at home in the early nineteenth centuryHughes' skill as a writer is beyond doubt the book is an absolutely fascinating study of the near hundred years from the initial discovery to the end of the system; the level of detail is in turns glorious and gut wrenching but even the most unpleasant aspects of the story remain compulsively readableuite simply this is one of the best history books I've read


  7. says:

    I was staggered to find that I bought this in March I ordered another book at the same time which I read first but I estimate it took me about 6 months to read it which is a very long time for meIs it an easy read No Is it interesting Yes Would I recommend it MaybeHaving visited Sydney the Hawkesbury and stayed at Windsor and Richmond and visited Bathurst I wish I had read it before I went but I was a bit disappointed that it focused entirely on the convicts and made very little mention of the forming of these settlementsHaving relatives in Tasmania I found the section on Van Diemen's Land perhaps the most interesting The section on Norfolk Island and in particular the reforms of Alexander Maconochie was really interesting although I have already read a book about Maconochie which expands his ideas a lot I was considering buying Thomas Keneally's history of Australia and bought The Fatal Shore because of reviews on which suggested that this one was better


  8. says:

    Imagine you have stolen a roll of cloth to sell to buy food for the family You are convicted There is a new way to deal with you It's called 'transportation' You are taken away to 'a hulk' a prison on a stinking old warship in a dockyard After a few months of failed appeals you are put on a small fleet of ships and eight months later you arrive in a totally barren country guarded by soldiers who do not wish to be there eitherThe fleet has taken with it a couple of cows a bull and some sheep You have limited supplies of other food If you are a male convict you receive a third less food than the soldiers If you are a female you receive a third less than a male convict En route there are deaths On shore starvation gradually takes control You have no idea whether anyone will ever come to join you and absolutely no hope of returnYou also have to deal with strange naked aborigines who cannot communicate easily and respond variously to your presenceMeanwhile the soldiers are also worried that the French or Dutch might come to colonise another area It will be about sixteen months if ever before you get replies to any messages home Not surprisingly racked with fear frustration and angerthe soldiers readily deal out punishments One story tells of a man so beaten that they could not find any area on his back where they could lash him All this to reduce the large number of hangings at home which had become popular local entertainmentsThis is a uite remarkable story fully documented but easily read It will leave you astonished at all kinds of human behaviour originating from eighteenth century Britain The journey the people the country they found and how it was slowly developed is a tale of courage wickedness ingenuity and blind stupidity When you have read it you might find yourself thinking about the undeveloped countries and their people in the twenty first century different circumstances similar problems


  9. says:

    The Fatal Shore is a must read for those who think the English have ever been a civilised nation Beginning with a survey of life for the Georgian working class it's unemployment it's treatment by the law and what can only sarcastically be described as justice Robert Hughes continues with his history of the eighty years of Transportation to Australia by outlining the discovery of the continent by Cook and the eventual arrival of The First Fleet in 1788 The apparent necessity to empty the prison hulks of England into the unknown New South Wales is explored and analysed with a scholarly and occasionally acerbic tone The gratuitous sadism of the life led by the convicts especially in Van Diemen's Land now Tasmania and on Norfolk Island is horrifically described as is the way women weretreated The governors of the territory are shown to be gutless martinets mostly with a couple of exceptions Anyone who has ever wondered why so much in Australia is named Macuarie will find the answer in these pagesHughes also explores the illogicality of Transportation This is a truly excellent work of history


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The Fatal Shore: The epic of Australia's founding

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An award winning epic on the birth of AustraliaIn 1787 the twenty eighth year of the reign of King George III the British Government sent a fleet to colonise AustraliaDocumenting the brutal transportation of men women and children out of Georgian Britain into a horrific penal system which was to be the precursor to the Gulag and was the origin of Australia The Fatal Shore is the definitive masterfully written narrative that has given its true history to AustraliaA uniue phantasmagoria of crime and punishment which combines the shadowy terrors of Goya with the tumescent life of Dickens Times The Fatal Shore has two main subjects that are inextricably linked a comprehensive history of the Transportation system used by Great Britain to dispose of its `criminal classes' and an eually comprehensive history of the founding of Australia In many ways these stories are the same as Hughes shows that without Transportation there may never have been a white English speaking Australia at allThe scope of the book is huge beginning with the crisis in crime and punishment in Georgian Great Britain and Captain Cook's initial discovery of the east coast of Australia moving through to the story of the First Fleet and the difficulties faced by the first settlersHughes then looks at several subjects in detail such as the development through time of the actual voyage between Great Britain and Australia which went from being unthinkably difficult to begin with to relatively comfortable by the end of the period in uestion and a look at the types of people who made up the `convicts' Separate chapters look at the stories of the escapees and `bushrangers' the sexual habits of the people on board the ships and in the colonies including mistresses prostitution and homosexuality and the various means of control exercised by the authorities to try to keep these people under control from `assignment' to chain gangs and corporal punishmentAs the book moves on we get a detailed survey of the various nascent states the relatively prosperous New South Wales and the desperately poor Van Diemen's Land the special penal colonies set up in places such as Norfolk Island and Port Arthur and the ending of the system which coincided with and was accelerated by the discovery of gold The effect on the indigenous population is discussed from the almost comic first meeting on the beach at Botany Bay to their surprising use as `convict hunters' in later years and the tragedy of the effect that white settlement had on their traditional way of lifeThroughout the book the picture emerges of a harsh land peopled by hard people At many points the treatment of the convicts is described in unflinching detail and there is surely little doubt that in some cases the people in charge were far unpleasant than the people under their control If it wasn't for the horrific treatment that they suffered for it some of the prisoner's insolence in the face of barbaric punishment would be almost admirable However it is also clear throughout the book that in Hughes' opinion life in Australia even as a convict might well be preferable to the life that the English poor would have had at home in the early nineteenth centuryHughes' skill as a writer is beyond doubt the book is an absolutely fascinating study of the near hundred years from the initial discovery to the end of the system; the level of detail is in turns glorious and gut wrenching but even the most unpleasant aspects of the story remain compulsively readableuite simply this is one of the best history books I've read

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An award winning epic on the birth of AustraliaIn 1787 the twenty eighth year of the reign of King George III the British Government sent a fleet to colonise AustraliaDocumenting the brutal transportation of men women and children out of Georgian Britain into a horrific penal system which was to be the precursor to the Gulag and was the origin of Australia The Fatal Shore is the definitive masterfully written narrative that has given its true history to AustraliaA uniue phantasmagoria of crime and punishment which combines the shadowy terrors of Goya with the tumescent life of Dickens Times Robert Hughes's The Fatal Shore is an epic piece of research that goes through the layers of colonial Australian history by each population that made up Australian colonial society You will come away with a great understanding of how each group common criminals political prisoners military officers on the outs profit seekers aborigines and others all interacted with each other to create the tapestry of Australian societyTwo critiues however First the book is not chronological and at times my head spun from the many jumps in time and location I found myself flipping back to earlier chapters as I worked through the book to remind myself what happened in a given decade Second I felt like the author lost steam in his narrative about 14 to 12 way through each section He presents a great deal of information but the reading is tedious at timesAll in all a very good read

free download The Fatal Shore: The epic of Australia's founding

An award winning epic on the birth of AustraliaIn 1787 the twenty eighth year of the reign of King George III the British Government sent a fleet to colonise AustraliaDocumenting the brutal transportation of men women and children out of Georgian Britain into a horrific penal system which was to be the precursor to the Gulag and was the origin of Australia The Fatal Shore is the definitive masterfully written narrative that has given its true history to AustraliaA uniue phantasmagoria of crime and punishment which combines the shadowy terrors of Goya with the tumescent life of Dickens Times The Fatal Shore is a must read for those who think the English have ever been a civilised nation Beginning with a survey of life for the Georgian working class it's unemployment it's treatment by the law and what can only sarcastically be described as justice Robert Hughes continues with his history of the eighty years of Transportation to Australia by outlining the discovery of the continent by Cook and the eventual arrival of The First Fleet in 1788 The apparent necessity to empty the prison hulks of England into the unknown New South Wales is explored and analysed with a scholarly and occasionally acerbic tone The gratuitous sadism of the life led by the convicts especially in Van Diemen's Land now Tasmania and on Norfolk Island is horrifically described as is the way women weretreated The governors of the territory are shown to be gutless martinets mostly with a couple of exceptions Anyone who has ever wondered why so much in Australia is named Macuarie will find the answer in these pagesHughes also explores the illogicality of Transportation This is a truly excellent work of history