Sarah Bellamy, the women transported to Botany Bay, biographical genres and the Australian Dictionary of Biography
Australian Journal of Biography and History
Surely using different kinds of sources results in different kinds of writing? Of course it is a matter of degree with both imagination and empirical research informing novels and biography on a continuum: sometimes novelists research and historians sometimes imagine. Charlotte Brontë's novel Shirley (1849) was based on her research of the Leeds Mercury newspaper of 1814 to 1816. 2 Some historians, while wary of crossing genres and writing fiction, have no problem using contemporary historical
... mporary historical literature. Thomas Carlyle wrote a novel in 1836 before writing biographies of great male leaders and lesser ones on his friends and relatives. 3 Certainly, different kinds of biography tend to rest more heavily on different kinds of sources. Hamish Maxwell-Stewart and Lucy Frost observed that convict biography based on fragmentary and biased sources involves epistemological concerns: The intellectual challenge faced by anyone who was to narrate convict lives is epistemological; what meanings can we legitimately attach to documents (textual or material) which are the source for knowing the past? How can we narrate the lives of people long dead? [... as] a conceptual problem, the issue is highly complex and theoretical. 4 This has not dissuaded the writing of convict biography. Prosaically, historians tend to use mixed methods considering multiple viewpoints, perspectives, positions and standpoints, and both qualitative and quantitative sources. 5 They tend 1 We thank Matt Cunneen and Nichola Garvey and the anonymous referees for their comments on an earlier draft; and Jenni Bird for her advice.