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Convicts, Slaves and Prison Inmates: The Voyage to Australia in Comparative Perspective


Maxwell-Stewart, H, Convicts, Slaves and Prison Inmates: The Voyage to Australia in Comparative Perspective, The Atlantic World in the Antipodes: Effects and Transformations since the Eighteenth Century, Cambridge Scholars Publishing, K Fullagar (ed), Newcastle, pp. 33-51. ISBN 978-1-4438-3744-6 (2012) [Research Book Chapter]

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Copyright 2012 The Author

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In the wake of his 1832-38 tour of the Australian penal colonies, Quaker George Washington Walker concluded that the health of prisoners in Van Diemen's Land (Tasmania) was generally inferior to that of the working classes in England. He attributed this not to conditions in the convict colony, but to the dissolute lives that convicts had lived in the British Isles prior to their arrest and transportation. In fact, he thought that the "salubrity of the climate" combined with "the ample allowance of food" and "moderate labour... tend in considerable degree to counteract the mischief thus incurred." Walker's positive description of the conditions faced by convicts is at odds with many popular depictions. Thus, according to the nineteenth-century convict ballad, Jim Jones at Botany Bay, prisoners exiled to Australia toiled for "day and night in irons clad like poor galley slaves"-a cycle terminated only by death, whereupon their bodies were used "to fill dishonoured graves." By using the testimony of convicts and the records employed to regulate their lives, it is possible to test Walker's hypothesis.

Item Details

Item Type:Research Book Chapter
Research Division:History, Heritage and Archaeology
Research Group:Historical studies
Research Field:Australian history
Objective Division:Culture and Society
Objective Group:Understanding past societies
Objective Field:Understanding Australia's past
UTAS Author:Maxwell-Stewart, H (Professor Hamish Maxwell-Stewart)
ID Code:83288
Year Published:2012
Deposited By:Riawunna
Deposited On:2013-03-07
Last Modified:2017-05-30

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