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Image: Rodius, Charles. 1833, [Convicts building road over the Blue Mountains, New South Wales, 1833] http://nla.gov.au/nla.obj-135505644
Explanations for the strength of working class culture in Australia have traditionally credited educated (mainly middle class) Irish rebels, English Chartists, Scottish ‘martyrs’. The crime they committed at home was the key to interpreting their influence in Australia.
Join historian Babette Smith as she explains how the research for her book The Luck of the Irish contradicts this argument, revealing that the reaction of ordinary prisoners to the convict system was crucial to creating the Australian working class.
Babette Smith is an independent historian. In 2015 she was awarded an Order of Australia Medal (OAM) for her services to history.
Babette is well known for her ground-breaking book A Cargo of Women which one historian described as ‘turning our understanding of the women convicts on its head’. It was first published in 1988 and is now in its second edition. This was followed in 2008 with Australia’s Birthstain which explained how shame about our penal history had distorted Australians’ understanding of their past.
Her latest book about male convicts, The Luck of the Irish, won the NSW Premier’s History Prize (Community & Regional) in 2015. It was described by the judges as ‘Beautifully written and convincingly argued… refreshingly original.’
Babette is currently writing a book titled Defiant Voices, how Australia’s female convicts challenged authority, 1788-1853 which will be published in 2021 by National Library of Australia Publishing.
You can watch the full Zoom recording of our event here: