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Casing the Joint: Introducing Histories of Australian Crime

University of Newcastle via edX


Crime holds a special place in Australian history, having facilitated colonisation, provided its most celebrated anti-hero in Ned Kelly and been used to sell millions of newspapers, books and movie tickets. Drawing upon a rich array of digital history resources, this course offers you a guided tour of the origins of Australian underworlds and of the study of the history of crime and punishment.

This course will deepen your understanding of the underworlds you encounter in podcasts, televisions series and books. You will develop a sense of the processes which occur when someone becomes entangled with the legal system, and you will know where you can go to find out more about an offender or a crime for yourself.


The course is three weeks long; each week's topic is designed to provide you with a grounding in the history of crime.

  • Week 1: What is the History of Crime? Learn about the distinctive features of the scholarly study of the history of crime, and how histories of crime differ from related genres like true crime.
  • Week 2: Criminal Justice and the Prosecution Project. You will recover the records of people convicted of crimes in Great Britain under English law and who were transported to the Australian colonies.
  • Week 3: Identifying Underworlds. The third week of the course reveals how the appearance of those taken into custody was recorded in police records, and how these systems of identification changed over time.

Taught by

Nancy Cushing

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