A Commonwealth of Thieves

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In this spirited history of the remarkable first four years of the convict settlement of Australia, Thomas Keneally offers us a human view of a fascinating piece of history. Combining the authority of a renowned historian with a brilliant narrative flair, Keneally gives us an inside view of this unprecedented experiment from the perspective of the new colony’s governor, Arthur Phillips. Using personal journals and documents, Keneally re-creates the hellish overseas voyage and the challenges Phillips faced upon arrival: unruly convicts, disgruntled officers, bewildered and hostile natives, food shortages, and disease. He also offers captivating portrayals of Aborigines and of convict settlers who were determined to begin their lives anew. A Commonwealth of Thieves immerses us in the fledgling penal colony and conjures up the thrills and hardships of those first four improbable years.


From the Trade Paperback edition.
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About the author

THOMAS KENEALLY has won international acclaim for his novels Schindler’s List (the basis for the movie and the winner of the Booker Prize), The Chant of Jimmie Blacksmith, Confederates, Gossip from the Forest, The Playmaker, Woman of the Inner Sea, A River Town, Office of Innocence, and The Tyrant’s Novel. His most recent works of nonfiction are The Great Shame and American Scoundrel. He resides in Sydney, Australia.


From the Trade Paperback edition.
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Additional Information

Publisher
Anchor
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Published on
Dec 4, 2007
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Pages
400
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ISBN
9780307387578
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Language
English
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Genres
History / Australia & New Zealand
History / Modern / 17th Century
History / Oceania
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Content Protection
This content is DRM protected.
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Eligible for Family Library

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In this volume of a unique history of Australia where people are always centre stage, bestselling author Thomas Keneally brings to life the vast range of characters who have formed our national story.

Convicts and Aborigines, settlers and soldiers, patriots and reformers, bushrangers and gold seekers, it is from their lives and their stories that he has woven a vibrant history to do full justice to the rich and colourful nature of our unique national character.

The story begins by looking at European occupation through Aboriginal eyes as we move between the city slums and rural hovels of eighteenth century Britain and the shores of Port Jackson. We spend time on the low-roofed convict decks of transports, and we see the bewilderment of the Eora people as they see the first ships of turaga, or 'ghost people'. We follow the daily round of Bennelong and his wife Barangaroo, and the tribulations of warrior Windradyne. Convicts like Solomon Wiseman and John Wilson find their feet and even fortune, while Henry Parkes' arrival as a penniless immigrant gives few clues to the national statesman he was to become. We follow the treks of the Chinese diggers - the Celestials - to the goldfields, and revolutionaries like Italian Raffaello Carboni and black American John Joseph bring us the drama of the Eureka uprising.

Were the first European mothers whores or matriarchs? Was the first generation of Australian children the luckiest or unluckiest on the planet? How did this often cruel and brutal penal experiment lead to a coherent civil society? To answer these and many more questions Thomas Keneally has brought to life the high and the low, the convict and the free of early Australian society.

This is truly a new history of Australia, by an author of outstanding literary skill and experience, and whose own humanity permeates every page.
Australians, Thomas Keneally's widely acclaimed three volume history of the Australian people from origins to Vietnam, gave us a robust, vibrant and page-turning narrative that brought to life the vast range of characters who have formed our national story.

Australians: a short history brings these three volumes together and reintroduces us to the rich assortment of contradictory, inspiring and surprising characters who made a young and cocky Australia.

It is the story of the original Australians and European occupation of their land through the convict era to pastoralists, bushrangers and gold seekers, working men, pioneering women, the rifts wrought by World War I, the rise of hard-nosed radicals from the Left and the Right, the social upheavals of the Great Crash and World War II, the Menzies era, the nation changing period of post-war migration and Australia's engagement with Asia. This is a truly masterly history of Australia and its people by an author of outstanding literary skill whose own humanity permeates every page.

Praise for Australians, the three volume history

'... giving us what Australian history has desperately needed for years.' Canberra Times

'Keneally evokes these distant lives with concrete detail and vivid sympathy ... his people inhabit the same world we do - we meet them without the hesitation of reaching across voids of space and time.' Sydney Morning Herald

'When it comes to writing page-turning narrative no one does it better than Thomas Keneally ... no doubt about it, Australians is a corker.' Weekend Australian

'Reading this book is like listening to a witty raconteur.' Adelaide Advertiser

'This new perspective on Australia's founding fathers is truly fascinating.' Courier Mail

'... what this book does is populate the blankness of our collective memory with lots of characters from all parts of the continent and all walks of life.' Saturday Age
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