'Ned Kelly: A Lawless Life' cover

Shortlist year: 2016

Shortlist category: Australian history

Published by: Connor Court Publishing

The book, the first in a trilogy dealing with Ned and his community, questions the assumptions made by the Ned Kelly myth. The Fitzpatrick Affair, the Stringybark Creek murders, the Euroa and Jerilderie bank robberies and the Kelly gang's Glenrowan last stand are told factually without mythical embellishment. Ned's Jerilderie Letter is presented in annotated form contrasting the facts against what Ned writes. The book discusses the work of several pro Kelly authors pointing out the flaws in their published works. This volume examines Ned's bushranging deeds, motives and behaviour in the context of his local and regional community. 

About the author

Doug Morrissey—author—Australian history—PMLA 2016

Doug Morrissey

Doug Morrissey grew up on a dairy farm in Gippsland. As a mature age student he attended La Trobe University, where he researched land settlement in north-east Victoria and Ned Kelly. He successfully completed an Honours thesis on Ned Kelly's sympathisers in 1978 and was awarded a PhD for his dissertation: Selectors, Squatters and Stock Thieves in 1987 where he examined the social and economic history of Kelly country. The late Dr John Hirst, Emeritus Scholar La Trobe University, was a mentor and supervisor throughout Doug's university career and acted as editor for Ned Kelly: A lawless life.

Judges’ comments

In Ned Kelly: A Lawless Life, Doug Morrissey critically analyses the mythology surrounding the Victorian bushranger and his Kelly Gang. The author examines the history of North East Victoria in the second half of the 19th century and traces the career of Ned Kelly (1854–80) who commenced as a horse thief and graduated to the kidnapping of civilians and the murder of policemen.

Kelly became what would be called today a celebrity criminal. He presented his own apologia in the 1879 Jeriderie Letter and in recent decades his cause has been advanced by the likes of Peter Carey, Peter FitzSimons, Ian Jones and John Molony. Doug Morrisseys detailed research challenges the Kelly Myth. The late John Hirst substantially edited Ned Kelly: A Lawless Life from a much longer manuscript.

A most valuable contribution to Australian history.