In 1787 a convoy of eleven ships, carrying about 1500 people, set out from England for Botany Bay. According to the conventional account, it was a shambolic affair- under-prepared, poorly equipped and ill-disciplined. Robert Hughes condemned the organisers' 'muddle and lack of foresight', while Manning Clark described scenes of 'indescribable misery and confusion'.
In The First Fleet- The Real Story, Alan Frost draws on previously forgotten records to debunk these persistent myths. He shows that the voyage was in fact meticulously planned - reflecting its importance to the British government's secret ambitions for imperial expansion. He examines the ships and supplies, passengers and behind-the-scenes discussions. In the process, he reveals the hopes and schemes of those who planned the voyage, and the experiences of those who made it.