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Madness was with the Europeans who colonised New South Wales from the start: sailors, convicts, soldiers, and free men and women. Join the Moruya and District Historical Society as they host Dr James Dunk for this Speaker Connect talk.

Dr Dunk’s talk will explore the strangeness of the colony through the ways it dealt with madness: locking up convicts in an open gaol, because they were ill, and confining free colonists in a place where freedom was definitive. It charts the development of lunatic asylums and lunacy law within a climate of suspicion of illness, and the political sensitivity of madness in both convict and free populations.

Dr James Dunk is a historian and writer living in Sydney. He is a Research Associate at the University of Sydney and has taught at Australian Catholic University, the University of Sydney and St Paul’s College. He is working on a book on the history of madness in colonial Australia, drawn from his thesis ‘The Politics of Madness in a Penal Colony: New South Wales, 1788-1856’, which was awarded in 2016. An essay based on one of its chapters won the Jill Roe Prize of the Australian Historical Association for the best unpublished essay by a postgraduate student, to be published in History Australia in 2018.


Proudly presented as part of the History Council of NSW’s Speaker Connect program for 2017, supported by Create NSW.

When: Saturday 25 November 2017, 2:00pm.
Where: Moruya Museum, 85 Campbell Street, Moruya
Cost: Free – reserve your ticket online
Contact: 02 4474 3224 or

Image: Sydney from Darlinghurst by Joseph Lycett c. 1818, courtesy State Library of NSW