chapter  9
20 Pages

John Watt Beattie and the presentation of convict history

WithJon Addison

The presentation and interpretation of Tasmania’s convict history has been heavily affected by and indeed mediated through a filter of emotional resonance. A number of views of the convict period and system became prevalent following the dismantling of the system itself. One of the most pervasive was the idea of the ‘convict stain.’ Tasmanians expressed shame in their convict heritage and strong desires to erase this past, essentially rewriting their own histories. The convict-related objects in J. W. Beattie’s collection suggest a very particular narrative of the convict era in Tasmania. The erasure of what became known as the ‘hated stain,’ or ‘convict stain,’ was the aim of much of Tasmanian European society during Beattie’s lifetime. Most of Tasmanian society took part in the reinvention, from the creation of new fictional histories for convict ancestors, to the expurgation of much of convict history from historical narratives.