Bedlam at Botany Bay
James Dunk

Paperback | Jun 2019 | NewSouth | 9781742236179 | 320pp | 234x153mm | GEN | AUD$34.99, NZD$39.99

*Shortlisted for the 2020 Ernest Scott Prize for History*

Madness stalked the colony of New South Wales and tracing its wild path changes the way we look at our colonial history.

What happened when people went mad in the fledgling colony of New South Wales? In this important new history, we find out through the tireless correspondence of governors and colonial secretaries, the delicate descriptions of judges and doctors, the brazen words of firebrand politicians, and the heartbreaking letters of siblings, parents and friends. We also hear from the mad themselves. Legal and social distinctions faded as delusion and disorder took root — in convicts exiled from their homes and living under the weight of imperial justice, in ex-convicts and small settlers as they grappled with the country they had taken from its Indigenous inhabitants, and in government officers and wealthy colonists who sought to guide the course of European history in Australia.

These stories of madness are woven together into a narrative about freedom and possibilities, unravelling and collapse. Bedlam at Botany Bay looks at people who found themselves not only at the edge of the world, but at the edge of sanity. It shows their worlds colliding.

'Bedlam at Botany Bay is a page-turner. A cascade of vivid case studies and their tragi-comic impact on the penal colony carries the reader forward as James Dunk’s forensic but compassionate examination reveals the interior — and exterior — madness of humanity in early Sydney...Don’t miss it.' — Babette Smith, The Australian