March 05, 2017

Reading on Transportation

Writing about web page

Please could you read the following:

Alice - Anderson (Convicts, carcerality...)

Anna S - Anderson (Transnational histories...)

Anna B - special issue of Cultural and Social History

Robin - Devereaux

Dan - Durston

Lewis - Ford/Roberts (Legal change...)

James - Ford/Roberts (NSW...)

Helen - Harling

Victoria - Hirst

Kieran - Hughes

Ellie - Nunn

Ella - Oxley

Rachel - Morgan/Rushton

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  1. Dan Ewers

    Gregory Durston, ‘Magwitch’s Forbears: Returning from Transportation in Eighteenth-Century London’, Australian Journal of Legal History, 9 (2005), pp. 137–58.

    Durston outlines various aspects of the cases of those who returned from transportation which I have summarised below using his own subheadings within the article:

    Introduction – focus on prosecution of prematurely returned transports between 1718-99 in London, Westminster, and Middlesex, transportation rarely employed prior to 17th century, used as exercise of royal mercy from execution after 1650, 4500 convicts sent to Americas between 1655-1699

    Transportation Act of 1718 – defendants convicted of clergyable offences often sentenced to transportation, larger sentences could be reprieved through transportation e.g. capital sentences, new provisions for forcibly removing convicts from country, any escape from lawful custody constituted a ‘return’ – penalty death, 80% of convicted male, increasing use of sentencing following passage of Act

    Premature Return – concerns over avoiding sentences, many were treated similarly to indentured servants – whipped, chained, brutalised, homesickness as powerful factor in return cases, some ran from conditions in Americas

    Escape and Return – many escapees remained in Americas, typically 20-35 years old, either escaped with other convicts or alone – not with slaves / indentured servants, travelled to cities for anonymity

    Returning from Hulks – hulks = shells of battleships used to hold those sentenced to transportation, eventually Australia selected as location for transported convicts, 700 convicts leave England in 1787

    Coming to Notice – reasons for recapture include returning to old haunts, seeking employment, rewards offered for recapture – £20 for securing conviction of returned convict, some bounty hunting for convicts, reoffending main reason for recapture, some convicts reported to have reformed / made new lives

    Prosecutions – minority returned to Britain, 76% of those returned were convicted

    Proving the Case – had to establish same person as that convicted originally, had to prove that they were ‘at large’ – at liberty in public place

    Identification – common defence = denial of identity, witnesses called to prove identity of accused, acquitted if no proof found

    Lawful excuses – had to be beyond convict’s control e.g. being forced to join navy

    Disposal – death original sentence for returning in 1718, unlikely for mercy in second trial

    06 Mar 2017, 18:03

  2. Gwenda Morgan and Peter Rushton, Eighteenth-Century Criminal Transportation: The Formation of the Criminal Atlantic

    It is argued that the popularity of transporting convicts became big business after the 1718 Transportation Act for those both shipping and receiving them. Transportation was not new in the eighteenth century, with it being estimated 4,500 convicts were sent to the colonies by 1700. Popular destinations for transported criminals included Maryland and Virginia.

    Morgan and Rushton look at the effects of this transportation, these include:
    1. Released many more serious offenders from execution at the gallows
    2. Crime linked colonies to the ‘mother country’ – convicts like commodities were a source of labour in producing other goods – linked places in a common trade
    3. Colonies were places where criminals could become respectable, the thief turned magistrate, the prostitute a planter’s wife, and all previous history forgotten or denied. There was little permanent stigma about being a convict or prisoner. They served a little longer + were subject to greater suspicion than ordinary slaves but only to a marginal difference
    4. Increased interest in the ‘new world’ – public market for news about criminals in colonies
    5. Released pressure form British government from the local authorities in the counties of England and Wales, whose gaols were increasingly full and dangerously unhealthy
    6. Convicts were a major source of this labour between 1718 and 1776
    7. Some convict shippers were well known in the colonies and formed longstanding business relationships with certain areas and partners
    8. Following the Revolution, transported convicts in effect wiped from the collective national memory for 100 years. This was potentially due to anxiety of racial purity – criminal ancestry of many white Americans was deleted

    They also look at the idea of a ‘crime Atlantic’. This was through the movement of criminals in both directions across the Atlantic and the publication, communication and exchange of representations of crime in general and transported convicts in particular, a shared concern arose centering on criminal transportation. Aspects of a ‘crime Atlantic’ include:
    - Cultural + political – collective experience + common culture for the convicts, crime made the news/public reporting/discussion/printed representations, news and crime became important aspect of publishing industry

    08 Mar 2017, 18:26

  3. Jocelyn Alexander & Clare Anderson, ‘Politics, Penality and (Post-) Colonialism’, Cultural and Social History, Vol 5 No: 4, (2008), pp. 391-394
    • Dalogue on transportation has been grounded in theoretical concerns about the nature and meaning of confinement, the relationships between power and resistance. (391)
    • Aided by the development of ‘subaltern studies’- means of writing (or recovering) histories of illiterate and disenfranchised inmates (391)
    • Alexander and Anderson term transportation as ‘the politics of incarceration’ , also means the construction and contestation of penal regimes in contexts where categories of ‘race’ and social differences relating to class, gender and caste (391)
    • Thesis- Debates about jails, transportation, corporal and capital punishment were linked inextricably with the exigencies of social control, social hierarchy and the desire for cheap labour. (391) Colonised communities and their sympathisers responded to the politics of incarceration in similar ways (392)
    • Prisoners sentenced to jail for ‘political’ offences had different incarceration experiences than ‘ordinary prisoners. The political prisoners wanted to set themselves apart from ‘ordinary’ prisoners (392)
    • However Paton argues what id defined as a ‘political’ offence is not simple, particularly in colonial contexts where crimes against ascribed status, harsh labour regimes or economic hierarchy and appropriation might be understood as anti-colonial acts (392)
    • Anderson argues that imprisonment became bound up with the politics of both enslavement and indentured labour migration. Causer, Paton and Reid show further how political debates over penal transportation in the Canadian, British and Australian contexts became aligned with the issue of emancipation. (392)
    • Imprisonemtn became a powerful means through which colonized populations imagined and represented the injustices of British rule. Twentieth-century nationalists in Africa and India promoted their cause through the metaphor of colonies as carceral institutions (392)
    • Prison experiences were used as both a moral critique and a political weapon against an at times hesitant and unsure colonial state. And yet it is also clear that prison did not necessarily produce social cohesion. (393)
    • The racial politics of colonial states were bolstered through institutions of confinement, with white prisoners kept entirely separate from Africans and Asians. Sherman’s work shows how these distinctions were central provocations to resistance for political prisoners in India. (393)
    • Anderson argues that imprisonment and transportation were spaces in which a division between public and ‘domestic’ labour could be promoted, effected and managed (393)
    • Causer and Reid advocated that radical opponents of transportation believed that because convicts became sexually degraded, the punishment compromised ‘masculinity’ (393) And yet for male prisoners jails and penal settlements were also places where masculinity was developed and expressed as a means of coping with the humiliation and social disruption that defined incarceration and transportation. Reid explores how the Chartist Frost represented the suffering of imprisonment – real and metaphorical – as a means of ‘manly self-making’, while Alexander shows how the politics of masculinity were linked intimately to the politics of ‘race’, with physical resistance against confinement a consciously effected violation of colonial racial etiquette. (394)
    • The articles in this special collection suggest that there was something peculiarly colonial about the politics of punishment in the age of empire, for the politics of social difference and repression informed the politics of confinement in significant ways. Thus, in the colonial context, imprisonment could never be anything but political (394)

    09 Mar 2017, 13:21

  4. Ella Rees

    Deborah Oxley, Convict Maids: The Forced Migration of Women to Australia (Cambridge, 1996)

    Oxley analyses information about 6,786 women convicts transported to New South Wales during the years 1826-42, as set out in ‘convict indents’: which recorded name, date and place of trial and sentence; later indents usually contain more information such as a physical description, native place, age and crime.

    Oxley’s book is conceived primarily as a contribution to economic history, focusing above all on the ‘economic accoutrements’ the women brought with them. As the author notes, women transportees have often been written off as feckless whores, both by 19th century contemporaries and unquestioning 20th century historians. Oxley begins the process of revision by arguing that, despite their unpromising backgrounds, convict women in fact proved enterprising and resilient workers, wives and mothers. In her account, Australia was truly a land of opportunity, allowing these women to make something of hitherto stunted lives.

    Oxley extends the revisionist analysis with a more positive assessment of what convict women had achieved prior to conviction. She provides compelling evidence that rather than comprising a parasitic ‘criminal class’, the female transportees were primarily first offenders, not that different to the ordinary working women of their home countries. Furthermore, based on analysis of their age, health, literacy, employment history and skills, she argues that convicts compared favourably with the free women immigrants who responded to vigorous solicitation from the 1830s. The authorities then targeted single women aged between fifteen and thirty, to perform household services. Oxley shows that more convict women than free fitted this bill. Overwhelmingly young, single and childless upon their arrival (if in some cases only because forced to leave partners and children behind), convict women’s prior work-experience was almost always in some form of housework: in these two senses they constituted the ‘convict maids’ of her title.

    09 Mar 2017, 18:00

  5. Helen Oakes

    The Trouble with Convicts: From Transportation to Penal Servitude 1840-1867, Philip Harling
    This essay discusses how the empire put pressure on the metropole to end transportation. Harling shows how Britain’s own thinking on convict transportation came back to bite them later on in the century. In the 1830s, transportation came under assault in Britain as arbitrary/immoral and corrupting. Consequently, transportation to New South Wales stopped in 1840, much to the distaste of residents in the colony, who were keen for the arrival of new convicts as a labour force. Britain created a new transportation system in which convicts would first spend time at home in solitary confinement and working in the docks, before being sent with reformed attitudes to the colonies to continue their sentence.

    Despite the initial support of the colonies for transported criminals, in contrast with the reluctance of Britain to continue to send them, in the 1840s, this relationship changed. Depression hit Tasmania in the 1840s, resulting in a large number of jobless convicts, who were grouped threatening labour gangs of around 200 criminals. Britain tried to transport convicts to other colonies such as the Cape Colony, but were unable to, due to backlash which meant convicts were moored in the ship for 6 months at the harbor. Finally, seeing the reluctance of other colonies, Tasmania began to realise they were being unfairly singled out as a convict colony, and started to petition to remove the ‘demoralising’ influence of convicts. Colonies feared that the mixture of native populations and convicts would reduce the power/civilising influence of the white minority.

    Post 1852, the only outlet for transported criminals was Western Australia, but the flow of a few hundred criminals there every year was staunched permanently in 1867. In response to the end of transportation, attitudes towards penal servitude hardened in Britain. Mid-Victorians believed that criminals could not be reformed, and needed to be punished more harshly. The press lamented the end of transportation with every crime scare in Britain (eg. garotting 1862-63).

    Harling concludes that attitudes towards criminals hardened following the end of transportation. He also summarises that the empire exercised significant influence on the transformation of British penal policy.

    10 Mar 2017, 09:15

  6. R. Hughes, The Fatal Shore: A History of the Transportation of Convicts to Australia 1787-1868

    The first thing the reader notices when engaging in this book is the apparently narrow focus of the book on a remote aspect of history: the transportation of convicts to Australia in the 18th and 19th centuries. The book has appealed to such a wide audience, making the New York Times best-seller list for a number of weeks, suggesting a degree of popular engagement. Hughes provides an investigation into the economic, social, and political conditions in England and they were certainly ripe for the transportation of convicts in the 18th and 19th centuries. The urban and industrial blight had hit England with now familiar problems: a large underclass, homeless, unemployed or unemployable, and a growing belligerence of the poor against the “haves,” in particular the nouveau riche. We gain a sense of the upper classes not being able to stand the “scum” of urban centres no longer, by the book.

    Hughes highlights graphic accounts of transportation cases. To begin with, the first convicts were, literally, dumped on the shores
    of Australia and expected to fend for themselves. Many starved to death in the first years. They had literally to clothe, house, and feed themselves with precious little material help from England. They were so far out of sight that they might as well not exist. In the most isolated settlements such as Norfolk Island, the penal colonies took on a most horrible and sadistic aspect. Hughes brilliantly paints the picture of the beauty of the Australian landscape, against which were splashed the ugliness of suffering, disease, filth, and, worst of all, sadistic tyranny. Indeed, Hughes frames this as a product of English society, a sort of natural progression.

    10 Mar 2017, 09:35

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