James Dunk

Dr. James Dunk is an historian of medicine and colonialism whose research is at the juncture between political, cultural, and intellectual history, exploring the ways that mental illness, especially, reveals the history of societies. His PhD thesis, “The Politics of Madness in a Penal Colony: New South Wales, 1788–1856,” was a political history of madness in colonial Australia that used the management of mental illness to show the social substructures of freedom in a penal colony. His book manuscript, Bedlam at Botany Bay, extends these findings to an analysis of Australian colonial trauma, disclosed in both the manifestation of madness and in responses to it. He is currently exploring these themes further in a project on business and madness with Professor Catharine Coleborne at the University of Newcastle.

As well as academic articles and reviews in History Australia, Social History of Medicine, Health and History and the Journal of Australian Colonial History, he has written on history, fiction, and film for Australian Book Review and Rochford Street Review.


James Dunk, “Work, Paperwork, and the Imaginary Tarban Creek Lunatic Asylum, 1846,” Bureaucracy, Archive Files and the Making of Knowledge, special issue of Rethinking History 22, No. 3 (2018): 326–355.

James Dunk, [Exhibition Review], “Louella McCarthy and Kathryn Weston, curators, “Caring for the Incarcerated,” University of Wollongong Library, Wollongong, History Australia, 14 (4), (2018): 662–665

James Dunk, “The Liability of Madness and the Commission of Lunacy in New South Wales, 1805–12,” History Australia, 15 (1), (2018): 130–150.

James Dunk, “Authority and the Treatment of the Insane at Castle Hill Asylum, 1811–25,” Health and History, 19 (2), (2017): 17–40.

James Dunk with Angeline Brasier, “Incarceration, Migration, Dispossession, and Discovery: Medicine in Colonial Australia,” Health and History, 19 (2), (2017): 1–16.


  • PhD (History) University of Sydney (2016)
  • BA (Advanced) (Hons I) University of Sydney (2007)


  • Australian Historical Association
  • Australian and New Zealand Society for the History of Medicine
  • Australian and New Zealand Law and History Society
  • History Council of New South Wales

Follow James Dunk on Twitter: @JamesHDunk