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Book Review
Australian Bushrangers
Australian Bushrangers 1788 –1880
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by: Randy L Harvey [ HARV ]

Originally published on:
Historicus Forma

This is a review by Randy L Harvey of the Osprey Publishing book Australian Bushrangers 1788 –1880 by author Ian Knight and illustrator Mark Stacey.

    The best-known image of 19th century Australian outlaws in inevitably the iron-armoured Kelly gang of 1880s, but in fact the colony’s frontier criminals varied widely in character. They included desperate runaway convicts, who were sometimes even reduced to cannibalism; flashy ‘gentlemen highwaymen’; and organized bandit gangs, who preyed on traffic during the Gold Rush, rustled livestock and robbed banks. This book traces the story of bushranging and law enforcement alike, illustrated with prints and phots, and with striking new colour plates detailing the appearance of bushrangers and of the soldiers and police who hunted them down.
** Quoted from the back cover of the book.
    The first 'bushrangers' or frontier outlaws were escaped or time-expired convicts, who took to the wilderness - 'the bush' - in New South Wales and on the island of Tasmania. Initially, the only Crown forces available were redcoats from the small, scattered garrisons, but by 1825 the problem of outlawry led to the formation of the first Mounted Police from these soldiers.

    The gold strikes of the 1860s attracted a new group of men who preferred to get rich by the gun rather than the shovel. The roads, and later railways, that linked the mines with the cities offered many tempting targets and were preyed upon by the bushrangers.

    This 1860s generation boasted many famous outlaws who passed into legend for their boldness. The last outbreak came in Victoria in 1880, when the notorious Kelly Gang staged several hold-ups and deliberately ambushed the pursuing police. Their last stand at Glenrowan has become a legendary episode in Australian history. Fully illustrated with some rare period photographs, this is the fascinating story of Australia's most infamous outlaws and the men tasked with tracking them down. **

Osprey Publications Ltd has released Australian Bushrangers 1788-1880 as Number 525 in their Men-at-Arms series. It is a soft cover book with 48 pages. Included with the text are black and white photographs and color photographs, color illustrations, detailed captions and more. It has a 2019 copyright and the ISBN is 978-1-4728-3110-1. The book details the history of Australian Bushrangers and the law enforcement officers that pursued and engaged them.

    - Historical Background
    - The First Fleet and the ‘transportation’ system – convicts and ‘squatters’
    - The military garrison
    - Proliferation of colonies
    - The First Bushrangers
    - Some early ‘bolters’; John Caesar – Alexander Pearce – Michael Howe
    - Appearance and weapons
    - Law Enforcement
    - The New South Wales Corps – Line infantry – the Buffs’ mounted patrol – the Mounted Police
    - ‘Gentlemen Bushrangers’, 1820s – 1840s
    - Matthew Brady – ‘Bold Jack’ Donohoe – ‘Teddy’ Davis – ‘Jacky Jacky’ Westwood – Martin Cash
    - Law Enforcement On The Goldfields, 1850s – 1870s
    - New South Wales Native Police – Gold Fields Police – New South Wales Mounted Police – Victoria Mounted Police
    - Gold Rush Bushrangers
    - The Gardiner gang – the Hall gang – Johnny Gilbert
    - Appearance and weapons
    - Other Bushrangers, 1850s – 1870s
    - ‘Mad Dan Morgan’ – the Clarke brothers – Frederick Ward/’Captain Thunderbolt’ – Andrew Scott/’Captain Mooonlite’
    - The Kelly Gang, 1878 - 1880
    - Tensions between ‘squatters’ and ‘selectors’
    - The ‘siege of Glenrowan’
    - Plate Commentaries
    - Index


Ian Knight is a leading international expert on the Anglo-Zulu War. He has written, co-written or edited over 30 books, including several in the Osprey Men-at-Arms, Elite, Warrior and Campaign series. He studied Afro-Caribbean Studies at Kent University, and is an Honorary Research Associate of the Natal Museum and Vice President of the Anglo Zulu War Historical Society. He has also contributed to a number of television documentaries on the war. In 2000 he was the Historian advising the Glasgow University team who made the first archaeological survey of the Isandlwana battlefield.


Mark Stacey was born in Manchester in 1964 and has been a freelance illustrator since 1987. He has a lifelong interest in all periods of history, particularly military history, and has specialized in this area throughout his career. He now lives and works in Cornwall.

Author Ian Knight provides an excellent history on the Australian Bushrangers and goes into specific details as to how Australia became part of the British empire and also how it became a penal colony and how British prisoners were made to be forced laborers on the continent and the specific types of work assigned to them and the various conditions to which they were forced to work and live in. When discussing various bushrangers, Ian Knight goes into specific detail for each providing information on the crimes they initially committed, the sentencing they received, how they came to be a bushranger, the crimes they committed as a bushranger and the ultimate end for each. I was fascinated with some of the crimes that were committed in England that were deemed heinous enough for the individual to be “transported” to Australia such as Alexander Pearce who had stolen six pairs of shoes and “Gentleman Bushranger” Matthew Brady who had stolen a food basket that contained butter, bacon, sugar and rice. Knight also discusses the harsh lifestyle that several of the bushrangers were forced to live in the Australian bush. One area of life in the bush that was detailed was the lack of food resources and how that led to the act of cannibalism by bushrangers such as Alexander Pearce who committed the act on more than one occasion and upon being captured commented that “Men’s flesh is delicious”. Other areas that are greatly detailed are the weapons stolen, captured and used by the various bushrangers and also the clothing worn by them. The clothing that many of the bushrangers originally wore were their prisoner uniforms that many of them were forced to wear upon their escape due to the fact that they were the only clothes available to them. So, on that note, it is also discussed that when the bushrangers would commit raids on various victims, in addition to obvious goods stolen such as food, weapons and money, clothing was high on the list of items desired. In addition to information on the bushrangers, Ian Knight also details the law enforcement that pursued and engaged the bushrangers and the weapons and tactics employed by them as well as the uniforms worn by them. The text in the book is nicely written and well detailed.

As I read through the text, I didn’t notice any spelling or grammatical errors. Grammar and spelling might not be an important factor to everyone however it is something that I take notice of and pass on my findings. I feel that if the text is well written then it shows that the author has taken the time to be a professional with their writing. Anyone wanting to add an excellent reference and history book on Australian Bushrangers to their personal library will be pleased with this very informative and interesting book.

There are 38 black and white photographs and color photographs in total. The photographs feature period paintings and sketches as well as original period photographs. Due to the time frame being discussed the period photographs are all staged for the photographer most of which are studio photographs taken at the request of the individual. There are also photographs of bushrangers who had met their fate and their bodies were staged and put on display prior to being photographed as was typical for the time frame as many times the photographs were later made into picture postcards which were made available for purchase. The majority of the photographs are clear and easily viewable; however, a few of the original photographs have an out of focus look to them and some appear to be too dark, and others appear too light. This is typical for the discussed period of history and consideration needs to be given to the fact that some of the photographs are over one hundred years old and the quality of the photographs is of no fault of the author and do not take anything away from the book. Author Ian Knight stuck to the title of the book and chose subject specific photographs and did not include photographs that strayed from the main subject of the book. The majority, if not all, of the photographs will prove to be a wealth of information to the bushranger/outlaw and weapons enthusiast due to the details they contain.

There are 8 plates of color illustrations by illustrator Mark Stacey. Each color plate contains three different illustrations of various bushrangers and law enforcement officers with the exception of Plate F which contains a total of five illustrations. There are brief captions that accompany the illustrations stating the individual’s name and time period. The Plate Commentaries chapter, that starts on page 44, provides well written and detailed larger captions that provide specific information on the individuals shown such as their names, the clothing they are wearing, the weapon(s) they are holding, their individual histories, dates, etc. The illustrations will prove to be valuable to the scale figure modeler as well as anyone interested in the Australian Bushrangers and the law enforcement officers that that pursued and engaged them.

The color illustrations are of the following:

Plate A – see attached scan

‘Bolters’ & Early Bushrangers, c. 1815-30

1. ‘Bolter’, c. 1815-20
2. Michael Howe, Van Diemen’s Land, c. 1818
3. ‘Bold Jack’ Donohoe, c. 1830

Plate B

Law Enforcement, 1817-32

1. Pte. 46th Regt; Van Diemen’s Land, 1817
2. Pte. 3rd Regt mounted detachment, 1825
3. Trooper, Mounted Police, 1832

Plate C

Bushrangers, 1840s-1860s

1. Edward Davis, c. 1840
2. Goldfields bushranger, 1850s-1860s
3. Frank Gardiner, c. 1862

Plate D – see attached scan

Bushrangers, 1860s

1. Ben Hall, c. 1863
2. ‘Happy Jack’ Gilbert, c. 1863
3. ‘Mad Dan Morgan’, c. 1864

Plate E

Law On The Goldfields, 1850s

1. Tpr. Native Mounted Police, 1852
2. Pte. 40th Regt gold escort, 1853
3. Tpr. Gold Fields Police, c. 1855

Plate F

Mounted Police, 1860s-1870s

1. Sgt, NSW Mounted Police, c. 1862
2. Victoria Mounted Police shako, 1860s
3. Victoria MP shako with summer cover
4. Victoria MP helmet, 1870s
5. Plain-clothes NSW policemen, 1865

Plate G

The Kelly Gang, December 1878

1. Ned Kelly
2. Dan Kelly
3. Steve Hart

Plate H

The Shoot-Out At Glenrowan, 28 June 1880

1. Plain-clothes police officer
2. Joe Byrne
3. Ned Kelly


The captions are well written and explain the accompanying photographs and illustrations in great detail eliminating any doubt as to what is shown. The captions go into very specific detail as to the specific individuals shown, specific types of weapons carried, clothing worn, dates and locations and other such pertinent information. I was very impressed by Ian Knight’s captions as they are very helpful to the reader due to their detailed content as opposed to other captions I have seen that are very brief and lack detail.


There are 2 notes included in this volume and they are:

- Author’s Note & Acknowledgements
- Artist’s Note

As with the other Osprey Publishing titles I was impressed with this book. This is a very nice reference book that contains a well written informative text, many subject specific photographs and illustrations, well detailed captions and more, all detailing Australian Bushrangers during the time frame of 1788 to 1880. As with the other Osprey Publishing titles, I would have no hesitation to recommend this book to others as it will be a welcome addition to one’s personal reference library.

Osprey Publishing also offers Australian Bushrangers 1788-1880 as:

eBook (ePub)
eBook (PDF)

Australian Bushrangers 1788-1880 is also available as a Kindle version through Amazon.com.


History of the Australian Bushrangers
George E Boxall
A Public Domain Book

This book was provided to me by Osprey Publishing. Please be sure to mention that you saw the book reviewed here when you make your purchase.


UK £11.99 / US $19.00 / CAN $25.00

** Quoted from the Osprey Publishing website.
Highs: Well written text and captions. Subject specific photographs and illustrations.
Lows: Nothing to mention.
Verdict: An excellent volume by Osprey Publishing. Definitely beneficial to the scale figure modeler as well as anyone interested in the history of the Australian Bushrangers and the law enforcement officers that pursued and engaged them.
  Scale: N/A
  Mfg. ID: 978-1-4728-3110-1
  Related Link: 
  PUBLISHED: Jun 14, 2019
  NATIONALITY: Australia

Our Thanks to Osprey Publishing!
This item was provided by them for the purpose of having it reviewed on this KitMaker Network site. If you would like your kit, book, or product reviewed, please contact us.

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About Randy L Harvey (HARV)

I have been in the modeling hobby off and on since my youth. I build mostly 1/35 scale. However I work in other scales for aircraft, ships and the occasional civilian car kit. I also kit bash and scratch-build when the mood strikes. I mainly model WWI and WWII figures, armor, vehic...

Copyright ©2021 text by Randy L Harvey [ HARV ]. Images also by copyright holder unless otherwise noted. Opinions expressed are those of the author(s) and not necessarily those of AeroScale. All rights reserved.


Browsing through the sample pages, this looks like an very interesting book. Makes me want to get some figures to build and paint.
JUN 18, 2019 - 01:17 PM
England did not have a prison system and punishment for even very minor crimes was death by hanging. They also believed there was a criminal class that could not be reformed. Transportation was seen as a way to get rid of the criminal class by sending to places from which they were unlikely to return. And incidentally getting work out of them that would benefit the Empire. The hope of being able to return was held out to the prisoners but most eventually found life better in Australia and opted not to. Ironically although populated by "the criminal class" Australia had a lower crime rate than England.
JUN 18, 2019 - 03:56 PM
Thank you for getting this posted for me Fred, I appreciate it. I was thinking the same thing in regards to a figure. I might have to scratch-build me a Ned Kelly figure. It should be fairly easy to do. I might have to suggest a "Here Come The Outlaws" campaign or something like that......and dedicate it to my grandfather. Thank you for the information Donald. The whole English justice system during that time frame is interesting. To me it is kind of ironic how Australia became a huge tourist destination and it is where England sent their undesirables back in the day. Thanks guys, Randy
JUN 29, 2019 - 02:22 PM

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