Posts Tagged ‘Australia’

Morgan’s Run by Colleen McCullough

March 15, 2012

The settlement of Australia started because England could no longer ship their convicts to the colonies after the American Revolution.  With the prisons in England overflowing they needed to find another solution rather quickly. Fortunately, they had just laid claim to the Eastern half of the Australian continent. McCullough’s novel tells the story of Richard Morgan, who was a respectable business and family man in Bristol until he ran afoul of a smuggler with powerful connections.  He was framed for a crime and he was not allowed any defense at his trial.   He spent two years in prison in England before being put on the death ship to the new colony.  After surviving the difficult sea voyage, it was discovered that the ship had not carried enough food for the colony to survive a whole year.  The first days of the colony were extremely difficult. Many of the convicts, and also the soldiers guarding them, were in danger of starvation.

After a few months some of the prisoners, including Richard Morgan, were moved to Norfolk Island; a tiny speck of land out in the middle of the Pacific Ocean.  These prisoners were sent with several free men and no soldiers and were simply left there with little supplies.  They had to build their own shelters and grow or catch their food.  Norfolk Island was a bit better for the settlers than the inhospitable Botany Bay, though. The soil was rich enough for planting and there was ample fishing off the coast. England wanted this island settled so they could produce hemp and would no longer have to buy it from Russia.  The experiment ultimately proved unsuccessful even though the settlers survived.

This fascinating story is based on a real person who was an ancestor of McCullough’s husband. The book mentioned at the end that McCullough would be writing a sequel to Morgan’s Run, but unfortunately this has not happened yet. Still, I highly recommend this book for fans of historical fiction, or anyone with an interest in Australia.

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