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  • The Commonwealth of Thieves 

  • By: Thomas Keneally
  • Narrated by: Simon Vance
  • Length: 12 hrs and 28 mins
  • 4.6 out of 5 stars (144 ratings)

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The Commonwealth of Thieves  cover art

The Commonwealth of Thieves 

By: Thomas Keneally
Narrated by: Simon Vance
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Publisher's Summary

A lively history of the 'First Fleet' which took convicts from Britain to Australia in 1787; Sydney's early years as 'an open-air prison'; and the colonisation of New South Wales. 

The story of modern Australia begins in 18th-century Britain, where people were hanged for petty offences but crime was rife and the gaols were bursting. From this situation was born the Sydney experiment, with criminals perceived to be damaging British society transported to Sydney, an 'open air prison with walls 14,000 miles thick'.  

Eleven ships were dispatched in 1781 and arrived in Australia after eight hellish months at sea. Tom Keneally describes the first four years of the 'thief colony' and how, despite the escapes, the floggings, the murders and the rebellions, it survived against the odds to create a culture which would never have been tolerated in its homeland but which, in Australia, became part of the identity of a new and audacious nation.

©2006 The Serpentine Publishing Co. (Pty) Ltd (P)2006 Tantor Media, Inc
  • Unabridged Audiobook
  • Categories: History

What listeners say about The Commonwealth of Thieves 

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  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
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    5 out of 5 stars

A most vivid account of Australian settlement

Without judgement Thomas weaves the stories of the individual lives of convicts, soldiers sea captains, and free settlers, those of Benelong, Barangaroo and the Eora people with that of Arthur Philip and other British officials into a complex colorful tapestry that brings to vivid life the story of the meeting of two cultures, two nations, two world views. A subject that is often as dry as ships biscuit when presented in grade school history books comes to life under the exquisite penmanship of Keneally as he depicts events of settlement through the intertwining life stories of the many lives allowing the reader to become almost intimately acquainted with the characters through their diary entries thus giving the reader almost the sense of having lived the experience first hand as a fly-on-the-wall observer, a voyeur-to-the-events that began the story of Australia. Engaging enthralling enlightening and best of all... entertaining!!

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7 people found this helpful

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history but not history

kenally writes clearly. this is a well researched and informative book. written in the style of a novel nevertheless it provides an informed view of early European settlement.

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5 people found this helpful

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Full 5 star

A remarkable book on the early British settlement of Australia and the relationship of the settlers and convicted men and woman with the native Australians. The narration is particularly pleasant with Simon’s lovely voice and English. I’ll listen again one day soon because Thomas has filled the book with so much material that it is easy to miss some while musing over it.

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3 people found this helpful

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Wonderful.

I was worried about reading this book. I was worried about it being “ white history “ all over again so I was pleasantly surprised. T.K. Has put us in touch with the individual people. The convicts , the officers, the indigenous folk. It was sympathetic to everyone and written without judgement for or against anyone. Like excellent journalism Some of the stories really surprised me and left me wanting to know more. Like the story of Barangaroo, Benelongs wife and a fantastic woman. I’ve never read anything on early white Australian history nearly as good as this before.

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2 people found this helpful

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Rich in history and narrative

Tom Keneally shares brilliantly researched and detailed insights into the Early years of Colonial Sydney. The narration of this ebook is fabulous also.

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1 person found this helpful

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An insight into 1788

I wasn't sure about this book at first, but the story is woven around Journals, Diaries and Accounts of many people who were experiencing Sydney Cove first hand. I guess it is a story seen through the eyes and perceptions of those present.
The deaths of so many Convicts was deplorable and the lack of any compassion for human life was disturbing.
As a descendant of several Convicts first, second and third fleets I can only marvel at their strength and indurance during those shocking times, it proved to me that only the very strong did survive and gives me pride in my Ancestory.
Well researched, written and narrated, a lot in old english speak, sometimes difficult to understand but definately worth listening and giving the listener a greater understanding of what happened at the beginning of colonisation of this country.

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Every Australian should read this

I am so glad I finally got to digest this book. It is a fascinating insight to the beginnings of colonial Australia, the challenges and hardships of those tasked with establishing there new colony and of the early interactions between there English settlers and the local indigenous population.

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Another Tour de Force from T Kenneally

I'm a little late finding this book but I'm glad I did. I was enthralled to have my scant knowledge of the landing of the First Fleet and the subsequent birth of NSW/Australia taught to me so eloquently.
Tom Kenneally is the master of accurate, educational, entertaining, historical narrative that is impossible to walk away from. These characters, possibly some of them your own ancestors jump off the page in all their humanity.
My hero is Governor Phillip. The immense task he undertook and carried out to the best of his ability under incredible difficulty would have broken a less ethical person. He was never properly recognised or recompensed by the authorities of the time who seemed to accept that he was just carrying out his duty, a job they themselves could never have considered doing!

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very enjoyable listen

well narrated, sympathetic narrative of both sides (english and indigenous) which kept my attention throughout

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Most Enjoyable History Lesson

The narration is wonderful and the research of this topic is fascinating. Hard to put away.
Informative and entertaining.

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In the spirit of reconciliation, Audible acknowledges the Traditional Custodians of country throughout Australia and their connections to land, sea and community. We pay our respect to their elders past and present and extend that respect to all Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples today.