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Australia's Birthstain: The startling legacy of the convict era

Allen & Unwin

Australia's Birthstain: The startling legacy of the convict era


A groundbreaking history of convicts in Australia which lays bare the distortions and myths that caused the nation to deny its own past.

Why is it that Australians are still misled by myths about their convict heritage? Why are so many family historians surprised to find a convict ancestor in their family trees? Why did an entire society collude to cover up its past?

Babette Smith traces the stories of hundreds of convicts over the 80 years of convict transportation to Australia. Putting a human face on the convicts' experience, she paints a rich picture of their crimes in Britain and their lives in the colonies. We know about Port Arthur, Norfolk Island, chaingangs and floggings, but this was far from the experience of most. In fact, most convicts became good citizens and the backbone of the new nation. So why did we need to hide them away?

Australia's Birthstain rewrites the story of Australia's convict foundations, revealing the involvement of British politicians and clergy in creating a birthstain that reached far beyond convict crimes. Its startling conclusion offers a fresh perspective on our past.

'Babette Smith's arguments will be hotly debated, but there is no doubting the fascination or drama of this study of the stain we pretend is not there.' - Thomas Keneally, Booker prize winning novelist and author of The Commonwealth of Thieves

'Smith shows how the shame about Australia's convict origins. continues to influence the way we view our history, an important book.' - David Day in The Age

Babette Smith
Published April 2009
408 pages
110mm x 178mm
ISBN 9781741756753

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