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G. D. Woods, A History of Criminal Law in New South Wales: the colonial period, 1788-1900.

The Federation Press, Leichhardt NSW, 459 pp; ISBN 1 86287 439 5.

It is heartening to see a major undertaking well-executed. Although New South Wales was a penal colony, it was firmly based in British law. The author tracks the influence of British law on the colony (to 1900). The focus on criminal law is necessary, to keep the topic both accessible to the general reader and within readable bounds for specialists. Having said that, it is a fully comprehensive, if not definitive, work on the subject, covering all major developments in the criminal law of the period. The author has kept his eye firmly on the thesis of the book--a difficult job, given the temptation there must have been to stray--and rewards his reader because of it.

The author, Gregory Woods, is described as a 'Sydney historian and writer who sits as a judge of the New South Wales District Court, usually in the criminal jurisdiction'. Prior to this he was a school teacher, an academic at Sydney Law School and an adviser to several Attorneys-General. He also practiced for many years at the Sydney Bar.

The book has a good index. It also contains an extensive bibliography, a table of cases and a table of statutes. It is unillustrated.

D.L. Lewis

Executive Officer RAHS
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Author:Lewis, D.L.
Publication:Journal of the Royal Australian Historical Society
Article Type:Book Review
Date:Jun 1, 2003
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