Convicts and Aborigines, settlers and soldiers, patriots and reformers, bushrangers and gold seekers, it is from their lives and their stories that he has woven a vibrant history to do full justice to the rich and colourful nature of our unique national character.
The story begins by looking at European occupation through Aboriginal eyes as we move between the city slums and rural hovels of eighteenth century Britain and the shores of Port Jackson. We spend time on the low-roofed convict decks of transports, and we see the bewilderment of the Eora people as they see the first ships of turaga, or ‘ghost people’. We follow the daily round of Bennelong and his wife Barangaroo, and the tribulations of warrior Windradyne. Convicts like Solomon Wiseman and John Wilson find their feet and even fortune, while Henry Parkes’ arrival as a penniless immigrant gives few clues to the national statesman he was to become. We follow the treks of the Chinese diggers – the Celestials – to the goldfields, and revolutionaries like Italian Raffaello Carboni and black American John Joseph bring us the drama of the Eureka uprising.
Were the first European mothers whores or matriarchs? Was the first generation of Australian children the luckiest or unluckiest on the planet? How did this often cruel and brutal penal experiment lead to a coherent civil society? To answer these and many more questions Thomas Keneally has brought to life the high and the low, the convict and the free of early Australian society.
This is truly a new history of Australia, by an author of outstanding literary skill and experience, and whose own humanity permeates every page.
Winner, ABIA (Australian Book Industry Awards) General Non-fiction Book of the Year, 2010
‘No doubt about it, Australians is a corker.’ Cassandra Pybus, Weekend Australian
‘…the story of Australia and the Australians could be in no better hands than Keneally’s.’ West Australian
‘Keneally evokes these distant lives with concrete detail and vivid sympathy…his people inhabit the same world we do – we meet them without the hesitation of reaching across voids of space and time.’ Sydney Morning Herald
‘[Australians]will appeal to the general reader and the avid historian alike, and this is only the first volume. This reader can’t wait for the second.’ Bookseller + Publisher