myth that Ned Kelly wanted to create a
on tall tales, wishful thinking, and skewed historical research.
This free book by Dr. Stuart Dawson demolishes the claim once and for
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One of the most perplexing claims
of the modern Ned Kelly legend is that Kelly and his famous bushranger
gang aspired to establish a Republic of North-Eastern Victoria, to be
triggered by the destruction of a special police train at Glenrowan in
Yet there is no mention of republican aims in any historical record of
Ned Kelly's day, nor in the numerous comments of those connected with or
held prisoner by the Kelly gang on various occasions, nor in the work of
early historians of the outbreak who knew the Kellys, their gang, their
sympathisers, or the pursuing police.
This investigation provides a close historical analysis of the
construction of a romantic myth of a Kelly-led Republic of North - Eastern
Victoria in much
popular Australian history.
It systematically reviews the arguments advanced to support the
narrative, and demonstrates that they are contradicted at every point by
documented historical evidence.
The Kelly Gang's sympathisers were concerned with allegedly wronged
relatives seeking justice from the system, together with land security
for sympathisers potentially threatened by denial of land purchase in
certain areas noted for stock theft, but never with the system's
At no point in the entire Kelly outbreak down to his execution did Ned
Kelly concern himself with a republic or political change. The myth of
the Kelly republic originated from a spoof article in the Bulletin
Magazine in June 1900.
It was widely popularised in a series of "believe-it-or-not" books and
newspaper columns in the early to mid-1940s. This in turn led to hearsay
oral “legends” of a Kelly republic through to the 1960s, when the idea
was first taken seriously.
Enhanced and furthered by numerous Kelly enthusiasts, in particular from
the late 1970s, it continues to the present day.
Despite its popularity, the Kelly republic emerges from this
investigation as a widely promulgated fiction, built on tall tales,
wishful thinking and flawed historical analysis.
Although just scraping
in at the start of the twentieth century, this book proposes that the
Bulletin's 1900 "Kelly republic" piece should be named as Australia's
greatest twentieth century history hoax.