Australia’s industrious convicts: A reappraisal of archaeological approaches to convict labour

26th April 2013

Richard Tuffin AA76

Maps of three convict coal mines in Tasmania (published in Australian Archaeology 76:6).

Richard Tuffin

Over the last three decades the convict as worker has become an increasingly studied aspect of the Australian transportation experience. With their insight into the landscapes and material culture of the convict experience, historical archaeologists have had—and continue to have—an important role to play in such research. This paper draws upon previously published studies of the archaeology and history of convict labour, considering the use of such labour in the colonies which received convicts between 1788–1868: primarily Van Diemen’s Land, New South Wales and Western Australia. Focusing on the use of convicts by the government, it finds that there is a distinct group of settings within which convict labour was deployed. In addition, the paper discusses the key determinants that resulted in the formation and evolution of the places of convict labour. Whilst not intended as a restrictive model, this synthesis of convict labour settings and their formative factors provides a contextual framework and classificatory system for future research.

Richard Tuffin
Australia’s industrious convicts: A reappraisal of archaeological approaches to convict labour
June 2013
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