Hamish Maxwell-Stewart was born in Nigeria in 1962 and brought up in St Leonards, a suburb of Hastings, in Southern England.
His parents were passionate collectors and founding members of the Burton St Leonards Society. Their enthusiasm for the past in general, and built heritage in particular, impacted upon Hamish from a young age and he went on the study history at the University of Edinburgh, Scotland, graduating with an MA (hons) in 1987.
He subsequently embarked on a PhD also at the University of Edinburgh. Although he initially intended to research the Atlantic Slave trade he was persuaded by his supervision team to study convict transportation to Van Diemen’s Land on the basis of the quality of the data. After a research trip to Hobart in 1988 Hamish returned to Edinburgh graduating with a PhD from the Department of Economic and Social History in 1991.
In the same year he joined the Wellcome Unit for the History of Medicine, University of Glasgow. He was initially employed to design sampling systems for selecting clinical record sets for long-term research collections but was later awarded post-doctoral fellowships from the Leverhulme and Wellcome Trusts.
In 1996 he migrated to Tasmania taking up a position as Port Arthur Research Fellow at the University of Tasmania in 1998. In 2000 he was appointed to the position of Associate Lecturer in History in Launceston. He was promoted to Lecturer in 2002, Senior Lecturer in 2004 Associate Professor in 2009 and full Professor 2013. In 2010 he was a visiting Professorial Fellow in Australian Studies, University of Texas, Austin and in 2012 held the prestigious Keith Cameron Chair of Australian History, School of Archives and History, University College Dublin, Ireland.
Hamish's work uses large datasets to follow transported convicts and their descendants from cradle to grave. He enjoys inter-disciplinary research and embraces the use of new technologies to interpret the past.
He has regularly appeared on both the Australian and British editions of Who Do You Think You Are? as well as other television programs such as Coast Australia and Tony Robinson Explores Australia. His work was featured in an extensive article in the The Australian Weekend Magazine, 3-4 August, 2013. He provides regular radio interviews including Conversations with Richard Fidler: http://www.abc.net.au/radio/darwin/programs/conversations/hamish-maxwell-stewart/8630144. His many collaborations with the Hobart based mulita media company Roar Film include: Founders and Survivors Story Lines http://www.founders-storylines.com; The Voyage https://www.roarfilm.com.au/projects/the-voyage/; and Pandemonium; https://www.nationaltrust.org.au/pandemonium/. His books include Closing Hell’s Gate’s (2008) which won the Australian Historical Society, Kay Daniels award and the Margaret Scott award. He is a member of the Australian Historical Society; the Social Science History Association; the Economic History Society of Australia and New Zealand. He was also a member of the Convict Nomination Reference Group, federal Department of Environment, Water, Heritage and the Arts for the successful Australian Convict Sites Serial nomination inscribed onto the UNESCO World Heritage Register (2009–10).