Labour History: A Journal of Labour and Social History

Convicts of the “Proper Description”: The Appropriation and Management of Skilled Convict Labour

Labour History: A Journal of Labour and Social History (2018), 114, (1), 69–92.

Abstract

Previous research into the management of convict labour in the Australian colonies has demonstrated that the identification and utilisation of the skills embedded within the convict population was an essential element of convict labour management. Focussing on Van Diemen’s Land (Tasmania) and the co-option of the skilled labour of convict miners in a penal setting, this article demonstrates the extent to which station administrators and colonial government alike sought to actively appropriate and manage the labour of convicts with this particular skill set. The appropriation records of 13,438 convicts transported to the colony between 1835 and 1846 will be used to illustrate a pattern of deliberate appropriation that, at times, subverted the emplaced regulations for managing convict labour. Through the records generated by and for their management, as well as evidence of the carcerai landscape within which they laboured, this paper also examines the processes by which the labour power of these convict miners was appropriated and how they reacted to such appropriation.

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Footnotes

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Tuffin, Richard