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The Fatal Shore: The epic of Australia's founding [Kindle Edition]

Robert Hughes
4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (162 customer reviews)

Print List Price: $21.00
Kindle Price: $12.79
You Save: $8.21 (39%)
Sold by: Random House LLC

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Book Description

The history of the birth of Australia which came out of the suffereing and brutality of England's infamous convict transportation system. With 16 pages of illustrations and 3 maps.


From the Trade Paperback edition.


Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

An extraordinary volume--even a masterpiece--about the early history of Australia that reads like the finest of novels. Hughes captures everything in this complex tableau with narrative finesse that drives the reader ever-deeper into specific facts and greater understanding. He presents compassionate understanding of the plights of colonists--both freemen and convicts--and the Aboriginal peoples they displaced. One of the very best works of history I have ever read.

From Library Journal

For 80 years between 1788 and 1868 England transported its convicts to Australia. This punishment provided the first immigrants and the work force to build the colony. Using diaries, letters, and original sources, Hughes meticulously documents this history. All sides of the story are told: the political and social reasoning behind the Transportation System, the viewpoint of the captains who had the difficult job of governing and developing the colonies, and of course the dilemma of the prisoners. This is a very thorough and accurate history of Australian colonization written by the author of the book and BBC/Time-Life TV series The Shock of the New . A definitive work that is an essential purchase for both public and academic libraries. BOMC and History Book Club main selections. Judith Nixon, Purdue Univ. Libs., W. Lafayette, Ind.
Copyright 1986 Reed Business Information, Inc.

Product Details

  • File Size: 9331 KB
  • Print Length: 628 pages
  • Publisher: Vintage; 1st Vintage Books ed edition (January 11, 2012)
  • Sold by: Random House LLC
  • Language: English
  • ASIN: B006NKL884
  • Text-to-Speech: Enabled
  • X-Ray:
  • Word Wise: Not Enabled
  • Lending: Not Enabled
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #73,869 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
224 of 229 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Historical Masterpiece May 3, 2001
Format:Paperback
As luck would have it, I recently had the opportunity to make a brief business trip to Australia. I knew very little about Australia and thought the best way to get some brief but non-superficial background would be to learn something of its history. I opted to read Robert Hughes's book which tells the story of Australia's founding and of its convict past. The book is lengthy, even too lengthy to complete on the 14 hour flights from the West Coast of the United States to Sydney and back. But the story was fascinating, and the book was well worth the attention and effort.
Hughes tells the story of the discovery of Australia, the decision of Great Britain to "transport" its convicted to the continent, the various kinds of lives the convicts found there, the aboriginal settlers and their treatment by the newcomers, and the ultimate creation of a new society. There are harrowing accounts of the passage from Britain to Australia in the convict ships, and still shocking accounts of the secondary places of punishment created in Australia for repeat offenders -- places such as Norfolk Island, Port Aurthur, and Macquarrie Bay. Hughes describes these nineteenth century camps as precursors of the Gulag in our own time, and I am afraid he is correct. They reminded me to of Andersonville Prison in our own Civil War but on a much broader, more wicked scale. The description of the prisons and barbaric punishments were to me the most vivid portions of the book.
Besides the horror stories, there is a great deal of nuanced, thoughtful writing in the book about the settlement and building of Australia and of the dangers of facile over-generalization about how the convicts fared, or about virtually any other historical subject.
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53 of 54 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A must read for non-fiction lovers June 13, 2000
By A Customer
Format:Paperback
This colorful and splendidly researched history of Australia's founding is breathtaking in its scope. The book is not only a story of Australia's beginnings, but an impressively researched history on the political pressures in England that led to the founding of Australia as a penal colony and of the struggles over penal reform. Perhaps most fascinating, and Hughes never fails to communicate his own sense of fascination, is the microcosm Australia offers as a society founded from wholecloth and how it evolved into a complex society. I read this book right after reading Son of the Morning Star (another superb book) and was very much struck between the parallels between how Americans who settled the West viewed and treated Native Americans and the Australian settlers' views of the aborigines whom they slowly but surely displaced. The wonderful stories would stand on their own even if ineptly told, but they really come alive with Hughes' writing style, which would be the pride of any novelist...Bravo!
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85 of 90 people found the following review helpful
By A Customer
Format:Paperback
I have travelled to Australia, thus far, eight times since 1990. In all of my travels I have focused on learning the evolutionary significance of Australia's fascinating fauna, as well as the the culture of its people, past and present. But in all of my travels in Australia (I have yet to go to Tasmania) I have never learned so much about its people (non-Aboriginal) and their colonization, as I have from reading The Fatal Shore. I am not, by any stretch of the imagination, a historian or even one who "likes" history. But Robert Hughes's book was so well written, and so insightful, that I can truly say I could not put it down. What I learned from this book really put my travels to Australia in perspective, and it made me want to learn so much more. If I could, I would give this book ten stars! This book is an absolute must-read for anyone who is interested in travel to Australia, or wants simply to learn about Australia's fascinating, albeit horrific, past. Robert Hughes has quite a talent for impecable research as well as for bringing his readers into the heart of unimaginable horrors. Australians need not be ashamed of their past (as is implied in the book) - on the contrary - they should relish in their success as a colorful and awe-inspiring nation (which is something they already do)!
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42 of 44 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A response to the idea of "Culture Cringe." May 13, 1998
Format:Paperback
Sham history is still history. I've read reviews of this fine piece of scholarship, including some presented on this very page, which attempt to undermine its validity by claiming that much of its content is anecdotal; based on folk tales and hearsay. I can only respond by noting that this fact adds to the color and elegance of the text. Few historical theses can claim to be both scholarly and entertaining. This one is. It reads like a novel. It instructs like a textbook. Its arguments are convincing and substantive. Its stories are humorous and horrifying. My only disappointment, which is actually only indirectly related to the book, came from the text of Mr. Hughes' statement to the faculty of the University of Melbourne upon his receiving an honorary Doctor of Letters. He apologized for his lack of formal education. No apologies are necessary.
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39 of 41 people found the following review helpful
Format:Paperback
Fatal Shore is a rare achievement in history writing: truly fascinating history by a wonderful writer. As a Time magazine writer and art critic, Robert Hughes obviously knows his way around the English language and shows it by crafting readable, entertaining history. But the book's true strength lies in Hughes' -- who is Australian -- brutally honest assessment of his country's fascinating founding. Hughes' voice makes the reader feel like he is getting Australia's story from the famously blunt lips of an Aussie over a few beers in an outback tavern. And why not? Good history SHOULD be brutally honest, not watered down with political correctness or the dry touch of an academic. Particularly strong are sections in which Hughes tears down the fiction -- created by Australians as an defensive reflex against their less-than-proud background -- which says the country's first convict citizens were mostly unjustly convicted and primarily political prisoners. The book is peppered throughout with gritty anecdotes and based on solid and extensive research. I had no idea Australia's founding was this interesting. Hughes shows us what an incredible tale it really was.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
3.0 out of 5 stars It was marketed as very good, but with the aged look and the musty ...
It was marketed as very good, but with the aged look and the musty smell, I can't rate it too high. It should have been rated as fair. Read more
Published 10 days ago by Amazon Customer
5.0 out of 5 stars a description of colonization real unusual and excellent documented.
It’s very interesting, a description of colonization real unusual and excellent documented.
Published 11 days ago by Abraham Stein
5.0 out of 5 stars The best reading for going down under
Get out your dictionary and prepare yourself for a fine bit of writing, well-researched.
I'm visiting Australia and feel very well prepared having read this.
Published 24 days ago by Dr. Bill
4.0 out of 5 stars Richly detailed history of convict system and early Australia.
Hughes' account of Australia's beginnings, and specifically the transport and convict system, is rich and fascinating in its detail. Read more
Published 1 month ago by Montana Skyline
5.0 out of 5 stars Makes great dinner party conversation
Fab book, I discovered many facts hitherto unknown to me about the history of the country in which I was born. It can be a slog at times but worth the effort. Read more
Published 1 month ago by Aishah Macgill
4.0 out of 5 stars A fascinating historical account of the British government's attempt...
Great historical novel. I learned a lot about the selling of Australia by British criminals who were deported there.
Published 2 months ago by Paul Foerster
5.0 out of 5 stars I keep it at the ready in the trunk of my car for those boring doctor...
This book is so big, I am still reading it a year later. Just know that the author likes to repeat has "facts" over and over again. Read more
Published 2 months ago by Livewire
5.0 out of 5 stars It's like he's held a microscope up to the period
Dense but fabulous and compelling. It's like he's held a microscope up to the period.
Published 3 months ago by Thedogfelix
4.0 out of 5 stars Four Stars
very interesting view into Auistralian history
Published 3 months ago by Carol Reeth
4.0 out of 5 stars Excellent but gruesome descriptions of how the ex-convicts settled...
Excellent but gruesome descriptions of how the ex-convicts settled Australia, I don't know if everyone could cope with the awful things that happened, but it's a good history, I... Read more
Published 3 months ago by Eleanor A. Robb
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More About the Author

Robert Hughes was born in Australia in 1938 and has lived in Europe and the United States since 1964. Since 1970 he has worked in New York as an art critic for Time Magazine. He has twice received the Franklin Jeweer Mather Award for Distinguished Criticism from the College Art Association of America.

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