‘Bedlam at Botany Bay’ wins 2020 NSW Premier’s History Award

Congratulations to James Dunk who was awarded the NSW Premier’s History Award in the Australian History Prize category for his book Bedlam at Botany Bay.

Bedlam at Botany Bay reveals the story of madness in the early years of New South Wales. Taking as its subject the convicts, free settlers and military officers that made up colonial society, and using a variety of sources, Dunk reveals how the stresses and struggles of life in a penal colony at the edge of the British Empire drove people mad.

The judges’ panel said the book combines ‘meticulous research and compelling writing’ and ‘offers readers a strikingly original re-reading of early colonial Australia’. Stephen Garton, who reviewed the book for JRAHS in December 2019, found Bedlam to be ‘a richly rewarding study that adds considerably to the growing corpus of work that illuminates the trauma rather than the triumph of colonisation’.

James launched the book at History House in June 2019 and presented an RAHS Day Lecture in September 2019, titled Terror, Insanity and Suicide in Colonial Sydney.

Bedlam at Botany Bay is published by UNSW Press and can be purchased from the publisher’s website or one of your favourite bookstores.

The full list of 2020 winners can be viewed below:

Australian History Prize ($15,000)

Bedlam at Botany Bay by James Dunk (UNSW Press)

General History Prize ($15,000)

The Warrior, The Voyager, and the Artist by Kate Fullagar (Yale University Press)

NSW Community and Regional History Prize ($15,000)

Surviving New England by Callum Clayton-Dixon (Newara Aboriginal Corporation)

Young People’s History Prize ($15,000)

The Good Son by Pierre-Jacques Ober, Jules Ober, and Felicity Coonan (Candlewick Press)

Digital History Prize ($15,000)

Experiment Street by Noëlle Janaczewska, Ros Bluett and Russell Stapleton (ABC Radio National: The History Listen)

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