This book deals with Australia’s convict beginnings and the attempt, in the century following the ending of transportation, by both families and society, to cover up the past. Smith focuses on the convicts of six ships who are representative of the range of convict experiences and traces their lives from their conviction to freedom. Their sentences served, most went on to be good citizens and, in most cases, to establish families that were pillars of their communities. Smith gives a vivid sense of what these people faced and, perhaps, how some of the qualities Australians hold dear such as egalitarianism and mateship (and perhaps contempt for the whinger) developed here. She also examines in depth the role of the anti-transportation movement in the development of the notion of a convict birthstain and the national amnesia that followed on from this. Essential reading for anyone interested in the history of Australia.
A detailed review can be found here.