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Orphans of History

Orphans of History: The Forgotten Children of the First Fleet

Robert Holden

Imagine what it would be like, as a small child, to arrive in Botany Bay in 1788, after spending months on board a crowded ship, cold, hungry and dirty. What did the new world look like to the forty-five children who were aboard the First Fleet?

Orphans of History is the fascinating story of these forgotten colonists, of their grim lives in the slums and prisons of London, and the uncertain future they faced in their new home. Among them was the youngest known convict, who when only nine years old was convicted at the Old Bailey. We also meet the son of a major who travelled in luxury; the first orphan in the colony; and a child born behind bars to a convict mother.

Orphans of History is an exciting and original book. This is history writing at its best—lively, intelligent and immensely readable.

About the Author

Robert Holden was born in Brisbane in 1948. He was Director of the Museum of Australian Childhood and is currently working with David Williamson on the screenplay of Orphans of History. He lives in Sydney.

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Text publication date:
2 October 2000
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Praise for Robert Holden
andOrphans of History

‘An important redress to a lapse in our historical memory and a coda to the painful story of Australia’s foundations on the pain, tears and sweat of its convict settlers.’

‘Holden is an eloquent and imaginative writer who combines historical rigor with the popular appeal of a powerfully told tale.’

‘Through his prodigious research in Britain and Australia, Holden has produced a narrative so evocative and compelling that the film rights were sold when the book was only partially completed.’