Review Blog

Nov 01 2014

A-Z of convicts in Van Diemen's Land by Simon Barnard

cover image

Text Publishing, 2014. ISBN 9781922079343
(Age: 12+) Highly recommended. This encyclopedia is a wonderful book that brings to life the history of the convict period in Tasmania from 1803 to 1853. The 73,000 convicts who arrived in the colony, lived lives that were largely hidden from us till now. Simon Barnard has used his wonderful drawing skills to bring to life and faithfully depict the people, their suffering, achievements, activities and the buildings, where they lived and worked.
Each alphabetically listed item, starting with 'absconder' has detailed, accurate and fascinating details of the convicts. I was especially drawn to the many three dimensional drawings of buildings, and activities. The artist-author used primary documents such as convict personal records and building plans to illustrate each facet of history. A drawing of a 'hulk' for example, is accompanied by personal stories, the daily routine, hardships on board, the role of staff, and the construction of the vessel. A whole page, the pages are very large, is devoted to 'leg irons' and demonstrates how they were constructed, the various parts, their use, and peculiarities. There are also double page illustrations of a 'penal station', 'shipyard', and 'treadmill'. Each page is filled with curious related facts and stories, and even includes a brief description of my convict ancestor, William Westwood, who managed to escape past the Eaglehawk Neck dog-line.
This rich and fascinating book is an extremely valuable addition to the historical knowledge of convict Australia.  
A map, glossary, index and bibliography are included at the end.
Paul Pledger

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