Professor Cassandra Pybus

Honorary Professor
Australian Research Council Professorial Fellow, 2007-2011

Professor Pybus completed both her Bachelor of Arts (Hons) (1971) and her Ph. D (1979) in History at the University of Sydney.

Since then, she has published extensively on Australian, American and Transatlantic history. Her interests span as broadly as Australian social history, colonial history in North America, South East Asia, Africa and Australia, slavery and the history of labour, and the history of Tasmanian Aborigines. She has won numerous awards, most recently the Adelaide Festival Prize for Non Fiction in 2001 for her controversial book The Devil and James McAuley.

Current Projects

  • Recovered Lives as Windows on the Anglo Colonial World, 1750-1850
    An Australian Research Council Professorial Fellowship to research the stories of each of three obscure individuals of the African Diaspora, recovered from the vast colonial archives of North America, West Africa and Australia, and construct their life narratives in multiple colonial settings. By providing a unique insight into the complexity of the colonial world during the long eighteenth century, these narratives will unsettle orthodox interpretations of colonial experience and speak to the legacy of slavery throughout the British empire.
  • Race and the Construction of Racial Identity at the Antipodes of Empire
    In this groundbreaking project, Professor Pybus heads up an international team of historians and literary scholars to interrogate discourses about and empirical evidence of racial interaction in the early antipodean colonies, which have been largely ignored by scholars working on race and empire. The main focus of the research is the early penal colonies, but the project will also engage with the Cape Colony, which was brought into the British imperial fold soon after New South Wales was founded and a decade before Van Diemen’s Land. The formative experiences of these British colonies in the antipodes have major implications for research on race and empire because they were established at the very time the malleable and contingent concept of race was being transformed into a fixed notion of innate difference. The intention is to provide a more nuanced understanding of Australia’s colonial beginnings that will inject scholarly complexity into the current dispute about race relations as well as providing a corrective to the Atlantic bias in the scholarship on race and empire.

Selected Publications


Other Middle Passages, ed. (with Marcus Rediker and Emma Christopher), University of California Press, Berkeley, 2007
Epic journeys of freedom: Runaway slaves of the American Revolution and their global quest for liberty (Boston: The Beacon Press, 2006). epic
Black Founders: The unknown story of Australia's first black settlers (University of New South Wales Press, 2006). founders
The woman who walked to Russia: a writer's search for a lost legend (2004)
with Hamish Maxwell-Stewart) American Citizens, British Slaves: Yankee Political Prisoners in an Australian Penal Colony, 1839 -1850 (Lansing: Michigan State University Press, 2002) citizens
Raven Road (University of Queensland Press, 2001).
The Devil and James McAuley (University of Queensland Press, 1999)

Till Apples Grow on an Orange Tree (1998)

White Rajah: a Dynastic Intrigue (1996)
Gross Moral Turpitude: The Orr Case Reconsidered (1993)

Community of Thieves
Book Chapters

"Tense and Tender Ties"in Extraordinary Stories, Remarkable Lives: Hidden Histories from Across the Globe, Paul Arthur ed., forthcoming Routledge Oxford 2012

"Recovered Lives as Windows into the Slave Family in the 18th Century Chesapeake" in The Black Atlantic and the Biographical Turn, Lisa Lindsay and John Sweet eds., University of Pennsylvania Press, Philadelphia, forthcoming 2012

"Thomas Jefferson and Slavery" in Companion to Thomas Jefferson, Frank Coglianio ed., (Blackwell, Oxford/New York, 2011)

"Black Methodists Who Escaped from Slavery and Founded a Nation" in Revolutionary Founders, Alfred Young, Gary Nash and Ray Raphael, eds, (Random House, New York, 2011)

"Henry (Harry) Washington" in The Human Tradition in the Atlantic World 1500-1800, Beatriz Gallotti Mamigonian and Karen Racine eds., (Rowman and Littlefield, New York, 2010)

"A Founding Father's Slave in Sierra Leone" in The Human Tradition in the African Diaspora, Beatriz Gallotti Mamigonian and Karen Racine eds., (Rowman and Littlefield, New York, 2009)

'A Return to Bondage: African-American Convicts Transported to Australia', in Dawne Curry, Eric Duke, et al, (eds.) Global Conversations: New Scholarship on the History of Black People, Illinois University Press, Urbana, (in press) 2007

'A Founding Fathers Slave in Sierra Leone', in Beatriz Gallotti Mamigonian and Karen Racine (eds.) The Human Tradition in the African Diaspora, Scholarly Resources, New York, (in press) 2007

'A Self Made Man', in Anna Johnston and Mitchell Rolls, (eds.) The Companion to the Friendly Mission, Quintus Press, Hobart (in press) 2007

'The World is All of One Piece: The African Diaspora and Transportation to Australia', in Ruth Hamilton, (ed.) Routes of Passage: Rethinking the African Diaspora, Michigan State University Press, East Lansing, 2005

'From Chesapeake Bay to Botany Bay', in Robert Dessaix, (ed.) Best Australian Essays, Black Inc Books, Melbourne, 2004
'Robertson and Robinson', in Robert Manne, (ed.) Whitewash, Black Inc Books, Melbourne, 2003

'Patriot Exiles in Van Diemen’s Land', in Barry Wright and Murray Greenwood (eds.) Canadian State Trials: Volume II, University of Toronto Press, 2002

'The Legacy of the Cold War', in Adi Wimmer (ed. and trans..) Australiens Zukunft im Lichte Seiner Vergangenheit Tuebingen, Stauffenburg, Verlag, 2002

'From Black Caesar to Mudrooroo: The African Diaspora in Australia', in Annalisa Oboe (ed.) Mongrel Signatures: Reflections on the Work of Mudrooroo, Amsterdam/New York, Rodopi, 2002

'The D- Yankee Quill Driver', in Lucy Frost and Hamish Maxwell-Stewart (eds.) Chain Letters: Narrating Convict Lives, Melbourne University Press, 2001


"Lives Recovered on the Intimate Frontier of Empire and Slavery" Life Writing vol. 8 no 1, 2011,

"'Not Fit for Your Protection or an Honest Man's Company': A Transnational Perspective on the Saintly William Dawes," History Australia, vol 6, no 1, April 2009.

"'One Militant Saint': The Well-Travelled Life of Mary Perth", Journal of Colonialism and Colonial History, Vol 9, Winter 2008

‘“A Less Favourable Specimen”: The Abolitionist Response to Self-Emancipated Slaves in Sierra Leone, 1793-1808’, Journal of Parliamentary History (2007), pp. 100-114

‘Billy Blue: An African American Journey through Empire in the Long Eighteenth Century’, Early American Studies, 5:2 (2007).
‘Washington’s Revolution (Harry, that is not George)’, Atlantic Studies, 3:2 (2006), pp. 183-198

‘Thomas Jefferson’s Faulty Math: The Question of Slave Defections in the American Revolution’, William and Mary Quarterly, 3rd series, LXIII (2005), pp. 244-264

‘The Many Escapes of John Moseley’, Journal of Australian Colonial Studies, 7 (2005), pp. 65-80

‘Ned Kelly’s Black Antecedents’, Moving Worlds: A Journal of Transcultural Writing, 2:1 (2002), pp. 118-132

‘“His Country’s Marks”: African soldiers from the Caribbean Regiments Transported to the Australian Penal Colonies’, Australian Cultural History, 21 (2002), pp. 33-41

‘From Slavery to Servitude: The Australian Exile of Elizabeth and Constance’ (with James Bradley) Journal of Australian Colonial Studies (2007).

‘Novel History: The Canadian Political Prisoners in VDL’, Australian-Canadian Studies, 18:1 (2001), pp. 201-212

“‘American citizens …but British slaves”: Yankee Political Prisoners in Van Diemen’s Land’, Australian Studies, 16:1 (2001), pp. 105-125.

Recent Competitive Grants and Awards

  • International Visiting Fellowship, Rockefeller Library Williamsburg, USA 2007
  • Australia Council Writers Fellowship 2006
  • Australian Research Council Linkage Grant, 2005-9
  • Australian Research Council Linkage, Grant 2003-7 $20,000
  • Australian Research Council Discovery Grant, 2003-2006
  • Coca Cola Fellowship, International Centre for Jefferson Studies, USA, 2003
  • Fulbright Senior Scholars Award to Georgetown University, USA, 2001
  • Australian Research Council Professorial Fellowship, 2001-2006
  • Australian Research Council Large Grant, 2000 -2003
  • Australia Council Writer’s Fellowship, 1998- 2000
  • Australian Research Council Large Grant, 1996
  • AVCC Grant to found Australian Humanities Review, 1995-96
  • Australia Council Asian Pacific Writers Fellowship, 1995