I’m back from Melbourne, Australia and like your Aunt Sally, I’m going to make you look at my holiday photos.
The most well-known aspect of Australian history is probably its penal colonies. In the 18th and 19th centuries, the English sought to solve their prison overpopulation problem by off-loading their criminals to foreign sites — “Transportation to Parts Beyond the Seas” in official jargon. Before the American Revolution, America had been their favorite transportation site. After the revolution, “Parts Beyond the Seas” became New South Wales, on the east coast of the Australia.
The history of Victoria and the southern coast, including the city of Melbourne, is more closely tied to the gold rush and the maritime industry than to English prisoners. As soon as I staggered off of the plane in Melbourne (thirty-three hours after I’d left DC), my brother — in Melbourne for a 6-month business trip — and his girlfriend whisked me off for a weekend trip along Victoria’s Great Ocean Road and its Historic Shipwreck Trail. More of that in the following posts.
I generally make my airplane reading something about the place that I’m visiting. One of my Australia books was The Floating Brothel by Sian Rees, nonfiction about the convict ship Lady Julian and the trip she made in 1789, from England to New South Wales with her cargo of about 226 female prisoners. I found it a very readable and completely fascinating introduction to the social history of women, poverty, petty crime and the English justice system in the late 18th century and I’d recommend it highly.