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A Commonwealth of Thieves: The Improbable…

A Commonwealth of Thieves: The Improbable Birth of Australia (2005)

by Thomas Keneally

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A good enveloping account of the arrival of prisoners to the penal colony of what is now Australia. Mr. Keneally knows his subjects inside-out and brings a unique perspective to the events. ( )
  charlie68 | May 29, 2016 |
The subtitle of 'The Improbable Birth of Australia' tells the reader that Keneally's book will deal with the first settlement established by the convict fleets from the UK. The author gives us not only a history of the first few years of settlement but also the story of Captain Arthur Phillip and his trials as the first governor of the convict colony. While one often hears of Botany Bay, less often does one hear that the first settlement was actually further north at Sydney Cove inside a large bay whose month was called Port Jackson, Phillip having decided almost at first sight that Botany Bay was unsuitable. While there was a lot of death, hunger, strife among Phillip's officers, and uneasy relations with the native clans, the settlement did have it's successes and became, in time, a major city.

I found the book to be interesting but very detailed and didn't enjoy it quite as much as I had hoped.
  hailelib | Dec 8, 2014 |
Fascinating account of the settlement of Australia from the landing of the First Fleet and through the first few years of the colony. Easy to read, very informative and with a focus on individual characters as well as the broader issues relating to the foundation of white settlement in Australia. #ThomasKeneally #CommonwealthOfThieves ( )
  PennyAnne | Dec 5, 2014 |
Very good! I could not put it down. ( )
  SpaceyAcey | Sep 23, 2013 |
I enjoyed this book quite a bit. There were a lot of interesting personalities involved in the founding of Australia, and Keneally brings them to life skilfully. Although I'm going to have nightmares about the conditions on board the Second and Third Fleet ships. WTF was the government thinking in using slavers' ships to transport people? Oh, right. The lives of convicts were less important than those of African slaves, because the slaves could be sold. Fuckers. Anyway, good book. Recommended. ( )
  SwitchKnitter | Dec 30, 2011 |
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If, in the New Year of 1788, the eye of God had strayed from the main games of Europe, the Americas, Asia and Africa, and idled over the huge vacancy of sea to the south-east of Africa, it would have been surprised in this empty zone to see not one, but all of eleven ships being driven east on the streaming band of westerlies.
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 140007956X, Paperback)

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.

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:23:34 -0400)

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Drawing on historical documents and journals, with the authority of a historian and the narrative grace of a novelist, Keneally recounts the founding of the first penal colony in Australia in 1788. At the center of the story is Arthur Phillips, an ambitious captain in the Royal Navy assigned the formidable task of organizing the expedition to Australia and establishing a colony comprised mainly of unskilled and malcontent criminals and petty thieves, many determined to overcome their pasts and begin anew. Keneally re-creates the grueling overseas voyage, a hellish journey that claimed many lives. As governor, Phillips took on the challenges of dealing with unruly convicts, disgruntled officers, a bewildered, sometimes hostile native population, as well as such serious matters as food shortages and disease. In the end Phillips emerges as a governor driven by a yearning for recognition and advancement, yet possessed of a social conscience rare for his time.--From publisher description.… (more)

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