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Experience of convicts
Transcript of Experience of convicts
The forced immigration of African slaves was an experience shared by convicts. Forced to a distant continent, convicts provided the cheap labour required to produce food and raw materials. They built the roads and bridges, and created the industries necessary for a new nation.
80%of convicts on board the First Fleet to Australia were thieves born into Britain's working classes.
If they were lucky they had been the workers providing the cheap labour for the factories of Britain's Industrial Revolution.
Many were unemployed and stole to keep their destitute families alive.
About 10% were transported for sheep and cattle theft, while the remainder were generally guilty of stealing from streets and houses of sprawling cities like London.
While they waited for transportation, convicts could live for years on the floating prison boats, or hulks, moored on the Thames.
Once aboard the sea-going transport ships, convicts were often fastened at the ankles by a chain, until the ship was so far out at sea that escape was impossible.
It was a long and monotonous voyage, a five-month ordeal of cramped and unhygienic living conditions, stale food, order and punishment.
Dysentery and scurvy were the threat to health and survival on many convict voyages.
10% of the convicts leaving Britain between 1795 and 1801 did not live long enough to reach Australia.
Convict Life in Sydney
On the 26 January 1788, the First Fleet sailed into the clear blue waters of a protected harbour. The Fleet's 11 ships carried 717 convicts, and 290 marines, including women and children.
The harbour was at the centre of the Gadigal lands. To the Gadigal people (also known as Cadigal or Cadi), the area was of great importance. They called it Warrane.
Explain the reasons put foward by Lord Sydney for a penal settlement in Australia
Using Source 1 as your evidence, explain why most people moving around the world during the C18th were unwilling immigrants:
Experience of convicts
The Journey to Australia
Source 3: Watercolour of Sydney Cove, Port Jackson, 1788 by William Brady
Refer to sources 3, 4 & 5 that follow as a starting point to list the challenges that would have faced Governor Phillip
The British first established their settlement in a cove that provided a fresh water supply. Captain Arthur Phillip was in command and was appointed the Governor of the new British colony.
He named the cove after the British Home Secretary, Lord Sydney; raised the Union Jack; fired a salute and made a toast to King George III of Great Britain.
Convicts and sailors had arrived in an unfamiliar and often frightening new land. Starvation was a real possibility because supplies were limited.
Convict control was kept through the force of flogging and execution.
Within days of arrival, a convict was executed for theft of food, the most common crime. New South Wales was known in Britain as the thieves' colony.
Sydney was a prison where life for convicts was carefully regulated.
Hard labour was the punishment for being found loitering near the wharves of an evening. Small boats on the Dyarubbin River, named the Hawkesbury-Nepean River by the British, were numbered and chained up at night.
Being found in a rowing boat in the dark was also an offence.
Roll calls were regular and informers were rewarded for reporting on those who broke the rules.
Placing a convict in solitary confinement, behind bars, or in chains was waste of a worker. Harsh physical discipline was also used by governors as a response to their fear of convict rebellion.
According to source 6, what was the basic rule that convicts had to obey in the struggling colony?
Most convicts did not live in a jail, but in the small houses they built for themselves or rented from others. They established their own neighbourhood on the slopes of Tallawolladah, which they called The Rocks. The area became known for drinking, gambling and cockfighting.
Convicts were not usually chained, they wore their own clothes and they were entitled to earn their own money after their assigned tasks were finished.
After hours, convicts were entitled to charge for their labour. Convicts commonly worked as shepherds, farmers, builders and domestic servants.
Convicts with a trade were given good terms of employment because the colony desperately needed their skills. Convict tradesmen and women opened businesses operating from ‘The Rocks’ and began building a new colonial society.
Hard-working and obedient convicts were issued with a ‘ticket of leave’ before their term of imprisonment expired.
Some convicts from wealthier, middle-class backgrounds were given their ticket of leave upon arrival in Sydney.
By the 1820s approximately half of the colony's population were free settlers.
Many were emancipists: convicts who had served their time or been pardoned and decided to remain in Australia.
Emancipists were eligible for land grants and were supplied with food and tools from the government stores until they could support themselves.
Under the rule of Governor Lachlan Macquarie, the emancipists were encouraged to regard themselves as valued citizens.
Macquarie held the view that the role of the emancipists was critical to the development of a new and civilised society.
Imagine you have been asked to design the ticket of leave that convicts are to be issued with as a reward for good behaviour in New South Wales.
The ticket should be small enough to put in a convict's pocket and contain I.D. details.
The governor would also like the document to include a short statement of the rules and benefits associated with the possession of a ticket of leave.
Use source 8 that follows for some details
Description of the found of the struggling settlement of Sydney. Excerpt from The Secret River, Kate Grenviile 2005