Saturday, February 20, 2010

Australians volume 1 Origins to Eureka

The first volume of Thomas Keneally's history of Australia provides the stories of European settlement of the country until the 1850s. Well known for his novels Thomas Keneally has written other works of non-fiction relating to Australia including The Commonwealth of Thieves, an exploration of the settlement of Sydney as a convict colony.

Keneally is interested in characters so he tells his story by interleaving events as they affected the lives of a selection of participants. A detailed time line to 1860 is provided along with extensive notes and an index.

The Commonwealth of Thieves dwelt on the transportation system, conditions on the transport ships and the initial establishment of Sydney. Like Australians the story is character driven and provides a readable insight into what conditions may have been like in the 1770s and 1780s. The notes and bibliography provide guides for future research for those interested in this period of history.

The early sections of Australians also provides information about the transportation system but concentrates on the development of the colonies that later became Australia, although the emphasis is on Sydney. Telling the story through events in the lives of the convicts and other settlers provides graphic images of life including challenges and achievements at the time.

Having 12 convicts in my family who had arrived in Sydney by 1808, both these books are valuable source books providing background information for family history research, especially as one of the convicts who features as a character in both books is Simeon Lord.

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