Breaking the Bank

An extraordinary colonial robbery

A fast-paced history of Colonial Sydney that tells the extraordinary story of the country's largest ever bank robbery and the people caught up in its wake - from the author of An Irresistible Temptation.

It was the largest bank robbery in Australian history. On Sunday 14 September 1828, thieves tunnelled through a sewage drain into the vault of Sydney's Bank of Australia and stole 14 000 pounds in notes and cash - the equivalent of $20 million in today's currency. This audacious group of convicts not only defied the weekly exhortation 'thou shalt not steal!', they targeted the bank owned by the colony's self-anointed nobility.
    Delighted at this affront to their betters, Sydney's largely criminal and ex-criminal population did all they could to undermine the authorities' attempts to catch the robbers and retrieve the spoils. While the desperate bank directors offered increasingly large rewards and the government officers cast longing looks at the gallows, the robbers continued to elude detection. Then one day ...
    With a rich cast of characters who refused to abase themselves to the establishment, this meticulously researched and fast-paced history tells the story of the daring Bank of Australia robbery and of the scheming robbers, greedy receivers and unfortunate suspects whose lives were irrevocably changed by this outrageous crime.

Allen & Unwin, 2008


Trade paperback

Sydney NSW   




As gripping as any modern true crime story.
Police Association Journal, Australia 


Australian purchases

(trade paperback)

RRP: $35.00

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Book Reviews

  • [Breaking the Bank] is a history book written as the best of novels, and is action packed from beginning to end ... [a] remarkably fascinating tale.
    SA Life, Australia

  • Carol Baxter tells this amazing piece of Australia’s criminal history as a narrative rather than an academic text, making it extremely readable ... This is an historical piece that is as gripping as any modern true crime story ....
    Police Association Journal, Australia

  • A story like [Breaking the Bank] is a mine of historical information but rather than a dry retelling of the facts, Baxter writes it like a crime thriller ... [It is] riveting.
    Adelaide Advertiser, Australia

  • One must admire the dogged perseverance of historical writers as they delve into Australia’s past and manage to come up with new takes on some fascinating aspects of our wild colonial days. Carol Baxter is a respected historian who in Breaking the Bank relates a true story that begs to be made into a movie.
    Courier Mail, Australia

  • A great story.
    Launceston Examiner, Australia

  • Colourful characters, daring deeds, crime and punishment, cruelty and compassion: Carol Baxter’s meticulously researched book has it all... Baxter brings long-dead people to life so vividly it’s hard to see why novelists and producers have overlooked the story... The precision of the writing, the controlled but graphic descriptions of people and events, engage sympathy and arouse anger. Breaking the Bank should be a contender for whatever Australian history prizes are going.
    Peter Corris, The Australian

  • Baxter [provides] a detailed description of an amazing bank robbery ... As a crime story and detection tale, Breaking the Bank is well worth reading. As a vehicle telling the tale of 180 years ago, it is precious history well presented.
    Waikato Times, New Zealand

  • Breaking the Bank is another example of the genre of popular history with a ‘novelistic feel’. Baxter is careful to base her reconstructions closely on contemporary evidence ... She succeeds in putting flesh on the bones of the convict society described by historians such as Hirst and [Robert] Hughes.
    Good Reading Magazine, Australia

  • [Carol Baxter] deserves to be congratulated on a number of counts. First and foremost there is assiduous research into the characters’ lives, the minutiae of events of both the crime and the subsequent transgressions and activity of the participants ... Her portraits are compelling and believable. Her intention has been to write accessible and popular history, building on the detective story aspect inherent in uncovering the perpetrators of the crime and the saga of bringing (or not bringing) the culprits to justice. Throughout, Baxter proves an accomplished story-teller.
    David Dunstan, Australian Historical Studies