From felon to freeman: A convict's reclaimed life
thesisposted on 01.09.2020, 00:00 authored by Jeffrey ReaneyJeffrey Reaney
This PhD consists of a speculative biography that follows the life of a convict named William Coombe, who was transported from England to Australia in 1835. The narrative recounts his life journey from a small English village through his crime, trial, transportation to and assignment in, Australia. It relates the story of his re-entry into society after gaining a conditional pardon, thus assisting to close an identified gap in convict literature. The speculative biography drew together the elements comprising his redemption: work, family, social and political activity, and other pursuits he followed in building his future. His life demonstrated that convicts could successfully rehabilitate, ‘the stain’ could be expunged and ex-convicts could make a productive contribution to society. The story also provides insights into Queensland’s colonial history and the role of convicts therein. The exegesis explores speculative biography and the scholarly debates associated with colonial convict history. The main research questions revolve around better understanding how and why the speculative biography has been used to write the past, then how and why the creative artefact conforms and sometimes differs to this contentious biographical sub-genre. The exegesis also asks what are the key fictional and historical techniques authors typically use when mobilising this sub-genre and what specific challenges and obligations were encountered when doing so. Using the Practice-led research methodology, the exegesis offers a critical explanation of how the research questions were addressed and answered, thereby adding to the store of knowledge regarding the application of utilising the speculative biography in producing historical works within various contexts.