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The Commonwealth of Thieves
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"The Sydney Experiment" was the political experiment of founding Sydney as a penal settlement to receive criminals. In late-18th-century Britain, people were hanged for petty offences, yet crime was rife. The goals were bursting, and over-flow prisoners were kept in notorious 'hulks', rotting old ships moored offshore. Out of this situation was born the 'solution': criminals perceived to 'damage' British society would be transported. Australia was surrounded by sea and a very long way away: thus Sydney was founded as 'an open-air prison' with 'walls 14,000 miles thick'. Thus, too, was Australia colonised. There had been no reconnaissance (Captain Cook had landed just the once), and British politicians were utterly ignorant about the undespoiled continent to which they dispatched a convoy of 11 ships in 1787 (the First Fleet). The transports spent 8 hellish months at sea. Tom Keneally tells the fascinating story of Captain Arthur Phillip, the Commodore of the First Fleet, who was empowered to govern the new colony, and who then became the friend of Bennelong, one of the native aboriginal tribes, who found themselves desperately interacting with the convicts, sailors, marines and officers suddenly dumped on their shores. There were orgies, diseases, court marshalls, hangings, escapes, hunger and others. Governor Arthur Phillip, who was in effect the despotic ruler of New South Wales, imposed order ...and eventually the 'open-air prison' was to develop into one of the most vibrant cities in the world.
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Lively history of the 'First Fleet' which took convicts from Britain to Australia in 1787. Also tells the story of the early years of Sydney, which was founded as 'an open-air prison', and the colonisation of New South Wales. The irony is that many a city founded in Utopian optimism has failed; Sydney, with its 'commonwealth of thieves', has been a conspicuous success.

About the Author

Thomas Keneally is married with two daughters and a grandson, and lives most of the year in Sydney, Australia. His numerous books include novels, memoirs and history. He has been shortlisted for the Booker Prize three times, and won it in 1982 with Schindler's Ark since made by Steven Spielberg into the internationally acclaimed film Schindler's List. Hodder /Sceptre do his fiction in the UK, and Chatto/Vintage publish his non fiction, including his entertaining book on the American civil war, American Scoundrel, and his superb epic about Irish convicts, The Great Shame.

Reviews

For decades now the international community has grappled with a concept for seeking a new world order. It first attempted with the League of Nations, then with a United Nations whose efforts were thwarted by a contrary Soviet Union and thirdly with the post-Cold War endeavour - aptly referred to as 'the third try'. Unfortunately, for all its triumphs the United Nations is a dismal failure. Broinowski and Wilkinson present a sporadic history of the UN's incapacity to fulfil its obligations and meet its desired responsibilities. Unlike many books of this nature, the authors offer solutions and a way forward for the organisation and the world as a whole. From the belligerent cowboys in the Oval Office to snapshots of the deplorable human rights issues around the world, the book reveals an organ on dialysis in desperate need of a transplant. The authors' considered insight is blended with accessibility comparable to that of Pilger and Manne, perhaps not as hard-hitting but of equal importance. It is a brilliant analysis of an often maligned organisation that pledged international kinship and is struggling to reinvent itself to stand for something meaningful. An extremely significant book that is sure to rouse the public from its slumber. Tony O'Loughlin is a bookseller at Melbourne's Avenue Bookstore in Albert Park C. 2005 Thorpe-Bowker and contributors

"A readable, anecdote-packed account of a tragic colonial experiment." --"Boston Globe" "Superb. . . . Keneally uses his novelist's skill to construct a lively mosaic from contemporary accounts." --"Financial Times" "Evocative. . . . Weaving together many individual stories, Keneally paints an impressionistic picture of a society in the making." --"The Washington Post Book World" "Keneally deploys his skills as a novelist to give depth to his work as an historian." --"The Economist"

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