Edward Everett Root Publishers Co. Ltd.


ISBN  9781915115379  HB  £85.00  Order
ISBN  9781915115386  PB  £40.00  Order
244 x 170mm  358pp. 
206 historical illustrations, chiefly in colour.

Corruption and Skullduggery

Edward Lord, Maria Riseley and Hobart's tempestuous beginnings

Alison Alexander
Winner of the 2014 Australian National Biography Award for

The Ambitions of Jane Franklin, Victorian Lady Adventurer

About this book

​This classic and colourfully illustrated work – reprinted to meet continuing wide demand – tells the story of much of the surprising and hidden shady criminal past of leading figures in early Tasmanian society.

It tells the fascinating story of the officer and the convict, Edward Lord and Maria Riseley, who made a fortune in early Hobart by their business and networking skills – only to throw it away in the 1820s by extravagance and financial incompetence (Edward) and sexual infidelity (Maria).

This is also the real story of early Hobart, not whitewashed as it usually is to show our glorious beginnings or because the gullible historian actually believes the official sources. Glossing over embarrassing scandals was the least of it. No one in Van Diemen’s Land wanted to be there: they were all either sent there (convicts, guards, officials) or, as convicts claimed and was all too often the case, they fled from Britain only one step ahead of the law (free settlers). 

Everyone wanted to make a fortune, and they weren’t too scrupulous about how they did it. Fleecing the British government was the most popular way, but they also fleeced each other, exploited, embezzled, stole … Almost no one in Hobart’s first twenty years has a creditable record. (Don’t gloat, Launcestonians: your story is even worse, just not yet told.) Oddly, convicts come out better than the rest, though possibly only because they lacked opportunity. However, Maria Riseley, the ex-convict, seems to have been one of the few business people who was not corrupt. Tough yes, corrupt no (or else she hid it much better than anyone else).

About the author

Historian, biographer and novelist Alison Alexander was born and bred in Tasmania and has written or edited 34 books, which describe the broad sweep of Tasmania’s history. Her work, The Ambitions of Jane Franklin, Victorian Lady Adventurer, won the 2014 Australian National Biography Award. https://www.alisonalexander.com.au/


‘A delightful book – well crafted, with elegant prose and well chosen illustrations. The extraordinary careers of Edward Lord and Marie Riseley are interwoven with every aspect of Van Diemen’s Land’s founding generation. It will become essential reading for anyone interested in early Australian history.’ – PROFESSOR HENRY REYNOLDS.

 'a riveting tale of intrigue and scandal'.-  PROFESSOR LUCY FROST.

Reviews on Goodreads: 

‘Well written, well researched and utterly fascinating. This is not the respectable Tasmanian history we were taught at school!’

‘highly informative and entertaining.’ 

'The fascinating story of the officer and the convict the real story of early Hobart’

‘this book is a keeper’.

Available October 2024