The following review is from good friend Garrett Ward Sheldon, The John Morton Beaty Professor of Political and Social Sciences, The University of Virginia’s College at Wise, USA.
Finished your family history and enjoyed it very much. Can’t wait to read the sequel! The way you weave together history, culture and religion is excellent. I really got a sense of the roughness of early Australia; and yet the quick civilizing of the British and Irish influences. Also the development of democracy is very good. Your description of Irish Catholicism on page 54 is most enlightening. What does the expression “reaching for a bucket ” (p. 59) mean? Your description of the convict women [on the First Fleet] (p. 245) is priceless. The Case of the Stolen Opposum (p. 252) is hilarious. The story of the Catholic educational system (p. 310) is very like the USA in the twentieth century.
Garrett Ward Sheldon
I have made contact through ancestry.com with several members of my extended family. Mike Chapman who lives in Canada is a fifth cousin through my mother’s line. After reading my family history book he posted the following five star review on the kobo website:
A Personal History of Australia
I found Gerard Wilson’s book a fascinating introduction to the development of Australia as a nation and the people responsible for its success. His research into his personal ancestry provides the reader with an insight into the lives of ordinary men and women who first settled the Australian continent. Many of them were petty criminals, (thieves, pickpockets, prostitutes) in British cities that were arrested, tried, convicted and sentenced to ‘transportation’ by the courts. Some were even sentenced to death (for theft in those days) but had their sentence commuted to transportation. Others were the officers and crew in the “First Fleet” of 11 ships that undertook the hazardous voyage in 1788 to Australia and of the convict ships that followed. It is remarkable that so many men and women banished from their homeland because of criminal convictions became hard-working, successful farmers and well respected citizens in the new land.
Mike Chapman, Canada
I sent a copy of Prison Hulk to Redemption: Part One of a Family History 1788-1900 to the Hon. Robert Clark Liberal Member for Box Hill and Shadow Minister for Industrial Relations in the Victorian State Parliament because of his interest in Edmund Burke. My book is a Burkean examination of cultural continuity and identity. The shadow minister had written a favourable review of Jesse Norman’s excellent book on Edmund Burke – Edmund Burke: Philosopher, Politician and Prophet. He replied with this comment:
‘I’ve enjoyed reading the concluding chapter of the book and your Burkean assessment of Australia’s institutional inheritance from Britain. I particularly enjoyed your assessment and critique of those Australian historians and commentators who seem to have a desire to belittle the British aspects of our heritage, whether that be from a teenager lack of confidence or (which may be a more complex version of the same phenomenon) from a socialist desire to tear down existing institutions.’