Murdoch University Research Repository

Welcome to the Murdoch University Research Repository

The Murdoch University Research Repository is an open access digital collection of research
created by Murdoch University staff, researchers and postgraduate students.

Learn more

A community apart: a history of Fremantle Prison, 1898-1991

Megahey, Norman (2000) A community apart: a history of Fremantle Prison, 1898-1991. PhD thesis, Murdoch University.

PDF - Front Pages
Download (142kB)
PDF - Whole Thesis
Download (12MB)


Much of the recent historiography of prisons has tended to focus on prison systems rather than on individual prisons. Much of this historiography also links development of prisons with major transformations in Western society. Michel Foucault, for example, sees the emergence of prisons in the mid-eighteenth century as a re-arrangement of the power to punish, a means of adapting to the emerging structures of modernity. David Rothman argues that the penitentiary was developed in North America in the 1820s as a means of ensuring stability, while Michael Ignatieff links the development of prisons in England with the development of capitalism and the search for a new form of social order to cope with this.

A major problem with these approaches is the tendency to accept official versions at face value and to ignore the realities of the day-to-day organization of prisons. More recently, historians have begun to rectify this shortcoming and have started to scrutinize the experiences of prisoners and prison staff, and to explore the prison world from the inside.

This thesis is an exploration of the world of Fremantle Prison in Western Australia, from 1898 until its closure in 1991. The thesis has two major concerns: to distinguish between official rhetoric and reality, and to bring into focus the experiences of inmates and their keepers. In addressing these concerns the thesis unlocks the prison gates and reveals something of the reality of prison life as both inmates and warders contributed to the shaping of the daily prison regime. A central argument is that throughout its existence Fremantle Prison was insulated from developments occurring across the rest of the Western Australian prison system. The thesis suggests reasons why this was so.

Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
Murdoch Affiliation: School of Social Sciences
Supervisor(s): Sturma, Michael
Item Control Page Item Control Page


Downloads per month over past year