The Commonwealth of Thieves

The Commonwealth of Thieves : The Story of the Founding of Australia

3.59 (830 ratings by Goodreads)
  • Hardback
By (author) 

List price: US$20.00

Currently unavailable

We can notify you when this item is back in stock

Add to wishlist

AbeBooks may have this title (opens in new window).

Try AbeBooks


"The Sydney Experiment" was the political experiment of founding Sydney as a penal settlement to receive criminals. In late-18th-century Britain, people were hanged for petty offences, yet crime was rife. The goals were bursting, and over-flow prisoners were kept in notorious 'hulks', rotting old ships moored offshore. Out of this situation was born the 'solution': criminals perceived to 'damage' British society would be transported. Australia was surrounded by sea and a very long way away: thus Sydney was founded as 'an open-air prison' with 'walls 14,000 miles thick'. Thus, too, was Australia colonised. There had been no reconnaissance (Captain Cook had landed just the once), and British politicians were utterly ignorant about the undespoiled continent to which they dispatched a convoy of 11 ships in 1787 (the First Fleet). The transports spent 8 hellish months at sea.
Tom Keneally tells the fascinating story of Captain Arthur Phillip, the Commodore of the First Fleet, who was empowered to govern the new colony, and who then became the friend of Bennelong, one of the native aboriginal tribes, who found themselves desperately interacting with the convicts, sailors, marines and officers suddenly dumped on their shores. There were orgies, diseases, court marshalls, hangings, escapes, hunger and others. Governor Arthur Phillip, who was in effect the despotic ruler of New South Wales, imposed order ...and eventually the 'open-air prison' was to develop into one of the most vibrant cities in the world.
show more

Product details

  • Hardback | 544 pages
  • 154 x 240 x 42mm | 798.34g
  • Vintage Publishing
  • London, United Kingdom
  • 2 inserts of 8 pp each in colour
  • 0701178833
  • 9780701178833
  • 841,725

Review quote

"A readable, anecdote-packed account of a tragic colonial experiment." --"Boston Globe" "Superb. . . . Keneally uses his novelist's skill to construct a lively mosaic from contemporary accounts." --"Financial Times" "Evocative. . . . Weaving together many individual stories, Keneally paints an impressionistic picture of a society in the making." --"The Washington Post Book World" "Keneally deploys his skills as a novelist to give depth to his work as an historian." --"The Economist"
show more

About Thomas Keneally

Thomas Keneally is married with two daughters and a grandson, and lives most of the year in Sydney, Australia. His numerous books include novels, memoirs and history. He has been shortlisted for the Booker Prize three times, and won it in 1982 with Schindler's Ark since made by Steven Spielberg into the internationally acclaimed film Schindler's List. Hodder /Sceptre do his fiction in the UK, and Chatto/Vintage publish his non fiction, including his entertaining book on the American civil war, American Scoundrel, and his superb epic about Irish convicts, The Great Shame.
show more

Rating details

830 ratings
3.59 out of 5 stars
5 17% (143)
4 38% (315)
3 34% (284)
2 8% (70)
1 2% (18)
Book ratings by Goodreads
Goodreads is the world's largest site for readers with over 50 million reviews. We're featuring millions of their reader ratings on our book pages to help you find your new favourite book. Close X