The Fatal Shore

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The Fatal Shore: The Epic of Australia's Founding (1986, ISBN 0-394-75366-6) by Robert Hughes is a history of the birth of Australia which came out of the suffering and brutality of Britain's infamous convict transportation system.[1] It also focuses on the historical, political and sociological reasons that led to British settlement.

The main themes of the book are:

  • the historical, political and social reasons that led to transportation to Australia
  • the hardships of the voyage and of the early years of the colony
  • the make-up of the convict population
  • the secondary detention centres such as Norfolk Island
  • established colonies and the moves toward abolition of convict transportation[2]

Scholarly in the depth of its research, The Fatal Shore has been prized for the fine quality of its writing, particularly in evoking the harshness of life experienced both by convicts and would-be escapees.


Hughes' interest in Australia's convict era history began in the early 1970s when he was filming an Australian art history documentary that took him to Port Arthur in Tasmania.[3]


Publishing history[edit]

It was originally published in 1986 by Alfred A. Knopf in the USA and by William Collins in the UK, and subsequently published in the UK by Collins Harvill in 1987. The Folio Society in the UK published a slipcased premium edition in 1998, extending to a 4th printing in 2006.


External links[edit]