Tim Causer: ” “On British felony, the sun never sets”: Australian convict narratives, 1788 to 1868″

Tim Causer, de University College, London, présentera sa communication “”On British felony, the sun never sets”: Australian convict narratives, 1788 to 1868”, le jeudi 29 janvier, de 17h30 à 19h30.

Discutante: Vanessa Castejon

Maison de la Recherche de l’université Paris IV-Sorbonne (28 rue Serpente, Paris 6e), salle D421. Le séminaire est ouvert aux étudiants de Master et doctorat, ainsi qu’à toutes les personnes intéressées. En raison des contrôles à l’entrée du bâtiment, il est recommandé d’imprimer cette annonce et de la présenter à l’accueil.

Podcast ci-dessous et sur le site de l’IHR:



Between 1788 and 1868, an estimated 160,000 men, women and children were transported to the penal colonies of New South Wales, Van Diemen’s Land, Norfolk Island, and Western Australia. Notwithstanding court accounts and the enormously detailed records of the convict administration which encompassed punishment records, petitions, and indents, very few transportees left behind some form of narrative about their lives.

Those which do survive take several forms, including diaries, dictated narratives, unpublished manuscripts, and published works which were often touched by the hand of an editor (or editors). This paper will introduce a number of such convict narratives, and discuss how such documents might be approached, interpreted, and interrogated, and why the prisoners sought to give an account of their lives. The documents will include the narrative of James Martin, who with a group of fellow prisoners absconded from Sydney in 1791 in an open boat and reached Dutch Timor in just over two months; the Irish convict Laurence Frayne’s bitter, angry account of his ill-treatment at the notorious Norfolk Island penal station, and his manifesto for a better penal system; and the account of James Punt Borritt’s incredible escape from Norfolk Island which was, bizarrely, published in a miscellany edited by two Essex clergymen, thirty years later.

The paper will then focus upon the narratives of three political prisoners transported to Australia: François-Xavier Prieur, a French-Canadian shopkeeper convicted of involvement in the 1838 Lower Canadian rebellion; the American Linus Miller, one of the ‘Patriot Exiles’ who attempted to spark a republican uprising in Upper Canada during 1838; and the Irishman John Mitchel, convicted for stirring up sedition before the 1848 Young Ireland rising. These three men were distinctly atypical, as very few individuals were transported for explicitly ‘political’ offences, but their narratives are important in understanding how they sought to distance themselves from the majority of convicts, in terms of class, social standing, piety, and honour, and can shed light on the writings of non-political prisoners. The three works also contain a significant critique of the British Empire and the convict system, and demonstrate how convicts wrote (or in some instance, re-wrote) their lives for their respective audiences.

Citer ce billet
Claire Delen (2015, 6 janvier). Tim Causer: ” “On British felony, the sun never sets”: Australian convict narratives, 1788 to 1868″ Séminaire franco-britannique d'histoire. Consulté le 21 juin 2024, à l’adresse https://doi.org/10.58079/u13b