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'Like Poor Galley Slaves ....': Slavery and Convict Transportation


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Maxwell-Stewart, HJ 2007 , ''Like Poor Galley Slaves ....': Slavery and Convict Transportation', in MS Fernandes Dias (ed.), Legacies of Slavery: Comparative Perspectives , Cambridge Scholars Publishing, Newcastle, pp. 48-61.

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Slavery was just one of a number of fonns of unfree labour associated with European overseas expansion. Indeed, of an estimated 5,300,000 unfree migrants carried on British vessels in the period 1519-1920, only about 58 percent were slaves. Of the remainder, 36 percent were indentured servants (predominantly drawn from the Indian subcontinent) and 6 percent (or approximately 310,000) were transported convicts. Although as a mechanism of enforced migration, it accounted for a minority of unfree voyages, convict transportation was a particularly long-lived practice. Introduced in 1615 by James 1 who gave the courts the discretion to reprieve felons on condition of enforced removal and labour "in foreign discoveries or other services beyond the seas", transportation was not abolished until 1920 when the last Indian convicts arrived at Port Blair in the Andaman Islands. Convict labour predated the use of slaves in many important British overseas possessions, including Barbados where they were used to cultivate tobacco. It also proved to be much' more durable than slavery. The convict establishment at Port Blair was not closed until 1939, over one hundred years after the ending of the apprenticeship system marked the fonnal demise of slavery as a legal institution within the British Empire.

Item Type: Book Section
Authors/Creators:Maxwell-Stewart, HJ
Publisher: Cambridge Scholars Publishing
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© 2007 the editor and the author

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