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The Lost Boys of Mr Dickens: How the British Empire turned artful dodgers into child killers

The Lost Boys of Mr Dickens: How the British Empire turned artful dodgers into child killers

By Steve Harris

This is the gripping real-life story of two young boys sent by the British Government as impoverished and unwanted juveniles to exile in the world’s first prison built exclusively for children.

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    This is the gripping real-life story of two young boys sent by the British Government as impoverished and unwanted juveniles to exile in the world’s first prison built exclusively for children.

    Some 3000 boys doing their best to survive on the streets of 19th century Great Britain were forcibly removed from their Oliver Twist lives, a stolen generation to be ‘saved’ from a life of crime by being transported to the other side of the world to endure seven or 14 year sentences in the extraordinary colony of Van Diemen’s Land.

    Prejudice, moral panic, harsh justice and expedience saw unwanted boys condemned to severe isolation, solitary confinement, hard labour in chains and thrashings in a juvenile version of notorious Port Arthur, a ground-breaking chapter in the history of juvenile crime and punishment.

    Some quietly endured in the hope of salvation through rudimentary trade and Biblical instruction, but others became relentlessly defiant and mutinous in a brotherhood of resistance and bullying, inexorably slipping from hope to hell.

    It culminated on a winter’s day in 1843 when the infant colony was shocked to hear that two young boys had bashed an overseer to death, facing a trial and a walk to the scaffold.

    As engrossing as a novel, this story of the death of childhood in the cradle of the world’s mightiest empire, and the atmospheric tale of crime and punishment leading to a sensational murder trial is from another time but implicitly raises questions which remain with us today.

  • About the author

    Steve Harris is a former editor, editor-in-chief and publisher at The Age, Sunday Age and Herald Sun. He is a fourth generation Tasmanian, life member of the Melbourne Press Club, and a John S. Knight Fellow at Stanford University. He is the author of Solomon’s Noose, the true story of a young Van Diemen’s Land convict who became Queen Victoria’s longest serving hangman, published in 2015, and The Prince and the Assassin, the true story of Australia’s first royal tour and the nation’s first portent of world terror, published in 2017.

  • Product details

    ISBN: 9781925556988

    Published: 2018

    Format: Softcover

  • Table of contents

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