Labour History

The ‘Knotted Hands that Set Us High’: Labour History and the Study of Convict Australia

Labour History (2011), 100, (1), 33–50.


Although labour and economic perspectives now seem integral to the study of convict Australia, for much of the twentieth century labour historians seemed to find the subject distinctly unprofitable and inappropriate. Most histories tended towards a reductive view of convict work as inherently brutal and exploitative, while the key questions revolved around the moral character of the convicts and the possible cultural legacies of the convict era. Labour history perspectives were more effectively applied to the subject once the field had become shaped and inspired by the new social and cultural history, the result being a richer and more multifaceted picture of the management and experience of convict work, and of the plight of convicts as working people.

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Author details

Roberts, David Andrew