Event Dates: 13 – 16 September 2015
College Court Conference Centre
Leicester LE2 3UF
The Carceral Archipelago: Transnational Circulations in Global Perspective, 1415-1960
Jennie Jeppesen (Melbourne) – Two Halves of a Whole: The Changes of British Convict Transportation Between Virginia 1611-1776 and Australia 1788-1840
Starting in 1611, England began shipping her convicts to her American colonies. This was codified into law in 1718 with the Transportation Act. Once the American colonies were shut to convicts after the American Revolution, Britain had to find a new location and eventually settled on Australia – after a brief failed experiment in Africa – as the location to transport their convicted felons. Until recently, transportation to each location has been examined in isolation from the other, sometimes only briefly mentioning that the other existed. These nationally focused histories give the impression that American and Australian transportation were two halves of the same system, with the Hulks as a stop-gap measure between them. However, there was a crucial change in the Transportation Act of 1786 placing property rights over convict labour into government hands. Previously, the property rights had been assigned to merchants transporting them, and sold on to planters. The change meant that rather than being controlled by a private individual, the convict was controlled by the government even when under assignment. This paper places the transportation of convicts to Virginia and New South Wales in comparison, and examines the effect that this change in property rights meant for convicts. It will demonstrate the ways in which New South Wales wasn’t simply a new location for convicts, but rather a dramatic shift in the status of convicts, which meant that convicts in Virginia were held in a chattel status and those in Australia were prisoners.