Robert Hughes, the Australian art critic, died on 6 August. We reprint this review (from 1988) by Belinda Weaver of his important history of Australia, The Fatal Shore, as a tribute.
It’s chic now in Australia to claim convict descent. Everyone wants to get in on the act. Tracing family history is now a national obsession. The convict past, no longer the shameful stigma it was, seems just another lovable aspect of Australia’s history.
Aussies are supposed to be ruggedly independent, jovial, anti-authoritarian, loyal to their mates, fond of the outdoor life. The popular image of the convict — a