BOOK REVIEW: Ned Kelly: Under the Microscope

Posted on December 3, 2014


kellyNed Kelly: Under the Microscope

Editor: Craig Cormick

CSIRO Publishing


When I was first offered the chance to review this title, at first I thought ‘not another Kelly history/biography, taking either a decided pro-Kelly or anti-Kelly stance.’ But I know the editor, Craig Cormick and have high regard for his work so decided to give it a crack.

I was far from disappointed.

Ultimately this is a collection of pieces which explore aspects of Ned Kelly and the Kelly mythology from largely scientific standpoints. It starts with the unearthing of old graves of executed criminals in the grounds of the now defunct Pentridge Prison. Whose bones were hose and had they correctly identified Ned Kelly’s? After a public call for information, the person holding what was believed to be Ned Kelly’s skull, stolen from National Trust’s Old Melbourne Gaol in 1978, was brought

Craig Cormick

Craig Cormick

forward. What was it really Kelly’s? More analysis and research was required.

For people like me with only a vague understanding of things like anatomical forensic techniques, this was a fascinating primer on the subject. From there the pieces go into analysis of things like a set of the Kelly Gang’s armour to determine how it was made, testing to competing stories/theories.

From those scientific explorations, the collection then explores other aspects of the Kelly story, reviewing matters from positions such as legal and historical analysis.

Spread throughout the book are sidebar pieces of interesting additional information which add to the collection’s scope and appeal.

Throughout, the collection focuses on analysis of fact, avoiding any specific pro- or anti-Kelly stances, providing an unbiased view, or at least as unbiased as the often polarised Kelly story can be. This indeed a worthwhile to the Kelly literature. It will appeal to a wide audience with its careful attention to detail by subject authorities while avoiding any descent into too-technical jargon.

Highly Recommended


Posted in: Review