Much of the history of early colonial Victoria has been overlooked with many historians and readers of history assuming not much of importance happened before the gold rushes of 1851. Similarly much of the story of those who came to the Port Phillip district as ex-convicts before 1851 has also been overlooked, or even deliberately forgotten. Many late 20th century studies of both the period and the convicts have tended towards generalization in the telling of the historical story, and towards conclusions based upon statistics. The brief and vague treatment so often given to this period, and these people, has sometimes been attributed to the apparent difficulty in obtaining suitable and sufficient source materials.
This book tells the life stories of two men who were convicted of robbery in England and transported to Van Diemen’s Land, one in 1829 and the other in 1835, and follows their attempts to create a respectable life for themselves through a variety of business, marriage, family and social relationships, first in Van Diemen’s Land and then in Port Phillip. The project investigates these men’s motivations and methods in concealing and deconstructing their prior identity as a convict, an identity that was imposed upon them as punishment for the crimes they committed.
The study demonstrates that the life of the period, and in particular the lives of those who were convicts, can be recovered in great detail through diligent research largely using sources that have been made available in digitized or online form.