Edward Everett Root Publishers Co. Ltd.


Available April 2025

ISBN  9781915115393  HB  £85.00  Order
ISBN  9781915115409  PB  £40.00  Order
244 x 170mm  c.342pp. 
50 historical illustrations, chiefly in colour.

About this book

This landmark new book is the culmination of Alison Alexander’s pioneering research into how immigrants started out in Australia, and how they developed the land and society.

The people featured here are all ‘the biggest rogues and scoundrels in the world’, wrote William Williamson in Hobart in 1820 – though, having robbed his sister of every penny she possessed, he was just as much a rogue as any.

Alison Alexander shows how a heterogeneous jumble of British convicts, guards and free settlers like Williamson established a functioning society where people could live in reasonable security and comfort. 

First settlers arriving here aimed to recreate life in Britain, with an elite ruling, a small middle class and the lower-class doing what they were told, either convict or free. But the upper-class members were so corrupt, the opportunities for the lower-class so good, that they created a parody or England, or an inversion, this society coming to a head under the ludicrous rule of the drunken, dissolute but gentleman Lt.Gov. Thomas Davey.

 Governor Arthur arrived in 1824 and established law and order but it was too late. By their behaviour the elite had lost their position and the lower class had gained it, to form a more egalitarian society.

For tens of thousands of years the island of lutrawita [Van Diemen’s Land/Tasmania) had been home to Aboriginal people, living as nomads and hunter-gatherers. But this was not the way the British lived. They seized the Aborigines’ land – and did what?

They arrived in a colony virtually untouched by humans. Somehow they had to find a way of life. This new book shows how in 1804 they started from scratch: mainly farming, with some merchants, tradesmen and public servants. It was a rough pioneer society, and people tried to make a living in any way they could, by hook or by crook. There were few restraining influences such as clergymen, teachers, effective police or women. People were largely free to rob, lie, cheat, plunder, even kill as they wished (or felt necessary). Fleecing the British government was especially popular.

Yet by 1831 (when this book closes) a viable British society existed. It might be rough-and-ready round the edges, under the surface, but by and large people were living as comfortably as in Britain – for working people, more so. Read this book for the fascinating story of how this came about.

The earlier and critically acclaimed companion volume, Corruption and Skullduggery. Edward Lord, Maria Riseley, and Hobart’s tempestuous beginnings, will be republished by Edward Everett Root in October 2024.

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/


Land of Rogues & Scoundrels

Starting from scratch in Van Diemen's Land

Alison Alexander

Winner of the 2014 Australian National Biography Award for
The Ambitions of Jane Franklin, Victorian Lady Adventurer

Also by this author, read more here...