About the project

The overall goal of this study is to provide a theoretical, empirical and analytical approach to the transnational, or global, study of convict transportation and its legacies, and its relationship to the history of labour, migration, and confinement.

The project will address the following specific objectives:

  • To work towards a redefinition of penal transportation that is sensitive to convict mobility and circulation across large distances of land and to offshore islands, as well as across oceans.
  • To quantify and to map global convict flows and circulations, including details of where convicts came from and went to; their crimes, gender and race.
  • To assess the importance of convicts as a labour supply, and in global convergence and divergence.
  • To specify qualitatively the character of convict work and management, convict relationships with neighbouring communities, and convict experiences of transportation.
  • To compare the quantitative and qualitative dimensions of the historiographical analysis and case studies with other labour flows, and to adequately theorize convict transportation in debates about freedom/ unfreedom, circulation and mobility.
  • To give details of the flow of ideas, practices and personnel within and across nations and empires, and to specify whether the global powers copied each other’s ideas, or designed transportation systems anew.
  • To trace the influence of penal colonies on other types of confinement, and vice versa, e.g. asylums, prisons, agricultural colonies etc. To analyse the flow of ideas, practices and officials across these spaces.
  • To show and to analyse what the impacts of convict transportation were, with respect to culture, demography and the built environment, and what happened to ex-convicts and their descendants.
  • To find out how histories of penal transportation are told in museums, heritage sites and monuments, and how they have influenced people’s sense of identity.

The project team will publish academic writing, and will also work towards the production of an edited volume and website resource.