Books

Van Diemen’s Good Citizens

Alison Alexander, Tasmania’s Convicts: How Felons Built a Free Society, Allen & Unwin, 2010, 304 pages, $45. Tony Moore, Death or Liberty: Rebels and Radicals Transported to Australia, Pier 9, 2010, 423 pages, $34.95.  The unfashionable little secret is out. Britain’s convict gulag, Guantanamo and hell-hole thief colony of Van Diemen’s Land was actually a marvellous success. Exile there transformed most of perhaps 70,000 thieves into honest and useful Australian pioneers. They mainly joined the battler class of manual workers, small farmers and tradesmen but quite a few were sufficiently socially mobile to become wealthy or community leaders, including politicians…

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