History: In print or prospect – School of Humanities History: In print or prospect – School of Humanities

History: In print or prospect

Dr James Dunk | University of Sydney

In Print or Prospect: Bedlam at Botany Bay

UNSW Press, June 2019
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.


The Department of History hosts a lively departmental research seminar series. Everyone is welcome to attend.

Seminar details
May 13 4:00-5:00 pm
The seminar will run on Zoom
If you are already on the Department of History’s seminar series email list you will receive an invitation.
Click here if you wish to be added to the History Seminar Series list

Professor Shane White
Click here to email

The Department of History is part of the School of Philosophical and Historical Inquiry (SOPHI)

Photo by Bruno Martins on Unsplash

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May 13 2020


4:00 pm - 5:00 pm





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