Review: The Convict Valley by Mark Dunn


Title: The Convict Valley: The Bloody Struggle of Australia’s Early Frontier

Author: Mark Dunn

Published: June 2nd 2020, Allen & Unwin

Status: Read June 2020 courtesy Allen & Unwin



My Thoughts:


The Convict Valley by Mark Dunn is a fascinating examination of New South Wales’ Hunter Valley region covering approximately a 60-year span from the late 1790’s to the early 1850’s.

“Outside of Sydney, the Hunter Valley was the first region to be explored in any detail by the British….”

Dunn utilises meticulous research to uncover the history of the region’s early development, and makes a sincere attempt to include the experience of the Aboriginal people in the narrative.

“From the very first years a complex, interwoven history emerged between the Aboriginal people and the British in the Hunter.”

Essentially stumbling on what is now known as Newcastle during the pursuit of five runaway convicts, the British were quick to recognise the region’s potential to provide coal and timber for the burgeoning colony of Sydney. Beginning as an unspoiled wilderness, home to the Wonnarua people, the Hunter Valley became the site of the state’s second penal colony in 1804, mainly to provide free labour to exploit its natural resources in a systematic manner, before the land was opened to free settlers in 1822. Largely an agricultural landscape, dominated by farms and estates, Newcastle (briefly renamed Kings Town) slowly became an urban center by default as new colonial settlements began to develop in Wallis Plains (Maitland), Green Hills (Morpeth) and Patrick Plains (Singleton).

“…as the population rose, and the stakes over land and property grew, class and racial tensions began to manifest themselves in what for a time became a landscape of violence.”

Detailing the physical, economic and social growth of the Hunter Valley in an accessible manner, enhanced by paintings, maps, sketches, and photographs, The Convict Valley makes an important contribution to the historical record of Australia.


Available from Allen & Unwin. RRP AUD$32.99

Or from your preferred retailer via Booko I Book Depository

2 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Trackback: It’s Monday! What Are You Reading? #SundayPost #SundaySalon | book'd out
  2. Trackback: Nonfiction November 2020 | book'd out

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