The ‘Other’ Bushrangers: Aboriginal, African American, Chinese and female bandits in Australian history and social memory, 1788-2019

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Copyright: Foster, Meg
This thesis investigates the ‘other’ bushrangers: Aboriginal, African American, Chinese and female bandits and their impact on colonial Australia as well as social memory. From the arrival of the First Fleet in 1788 to the early twentieth century, this study explores the relationship between these bushrangers and colonial ideas, society and identity, as well as the legacy of this history. In contemporary Australia, ‘bushrangers’ are remembered as folk heroes. White men who took to the bush and survived by committing ‘robbery under arms’ are lauded as national icons, associated as they are with bravery, chivalry and ridiculing inept or corrupt authorities. But this was not how all bushrangers were seen in their own times, and white men were not the only people to engage in bushranging crime. This thesis is the first academic study to investigate bushrangers who were not white and male. However, this thesis does more than recover these lesser known figures from historical obscurity. To merely insert ‘other’ bushrangers back into historical narratives does not do justice to the complex and ambiguous position that these men and women held in their own times. Rather than focus solely on historical redress, this study examines the meaning that these bushrangers gave to their own lives as well as the views of people who encountered them. It is an ethnographic history that uses ideas of race, gender, sex and class as well as law, order, crime, and justice to unpack these bushrangers’ experiences alongside those of colonial society. The disruption that these bushrangers caused to colonial society provides a unique opportunity to examine that society at the time. Deeply cherished colonial ideas and institutions were made to respond to ‘other’ bushrangers in myriad complex ways, and the messiness of this lived experience expands and challenges our understanding of Australian colonial history as well as the national bushranging mythos.
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Foster, Meg
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PhD Doctorate
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