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Convicts in the Colonies (Hardback)

Transportation Tales from Britain to Australia

Colour Books P&S History > British History P&S History > By Century > 18th Century P&S History > By Century > 19th Century P&S History > Social History P&S History > True Crime

By Lucy Williams
Imprint: Pen & Sword History
Pages: 202
Illustrations: 24
ISBN: 9781526718372
Published: 7th November 2018



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In the eighty years between 1787 and 1868 more than 160,000 men, women and children convicted of everything from picking pockets to murder were sentenced to be transported ‘beyond the seas’. These convicts were destined to serve out their sentences in the empire’s most remote colony: Australia. Through vivid real-life case studies and famous tales of the exceptional and extraordinary, Convicts in the Colonies narrates the history of convict transportation to Australia – from the first to the final fleet.

Using the latest original research, Lucy Williams reveals a fascinating century-long history of British convicts unlike any other. Covering everything from crime and sentencing in Britain and the perilous voyage to Australia, to life in each of the three main penal colonies – New South Wales, Van Diemen’s Land, and Western Australia – this book charts the lives and experiences of the men and women who crossed the world and underwent one of the most extraordinary punishment in history.

This book by Lucy Williams provides a fascinating insight into the plight and ultimate settling of the British colony of Australia from 1787 – 1868.

I found this book ‘un-put-downable’ and read it from cover to cover within a week. At 180 pages of narrative (excluding appendix, references and index) it is an easy read.

An easily read, fascinating history, telling the tales of the ‘recidivist’ convicts in the 18th and 19th centuries.

The Essex Society - The Essex Family Historian, Edition No. 178, December 2022

As featured in

Cheshire Ancestor

I really enjoyed this book. Social history isn't usually my go-to, but I found this an easy and enjoyable read. The book generally takes a sympathetic view to the people and stories it tells, and is written in a way that allows you to put yourself in their shoes. This month I am travelling to WA and NSW and am excited to see some of the places discussed in the book. It is clear that an immense amount of research has gone into this book and it pays off.

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GoodReads, Tayla McRae

The author, Lucy Williams has done a remarkable job presenting the fact and data of these stories in a professional manner. In all seriousness, what other way can you present it! As historians and professionals, story tellers and researchers must stick to the truth, fact, and data and let the reader’s imagination take flight. That is the beauty of this kind of research and story! I thought it was a fantastic and compelling read.

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GoodReads, Moon Mullins

Lucy Williams has created an intriguing work that is perfect from not only historians, but true crime lovers.

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The Nerdy Girl Express

The most interesting part of Convicts in the Colonies is the section about the English and Irish convicts who were sentenced to be transported to Australia but never got there. Offenders were sentenced to be transported from 1788 to 1868. In the earlier period only about 30% reached Australia, and the proportion never got above 75%.

Historical Novels Review

As featured in

The Bookseller 26/4/19

I recommend the book to anyone wanting a general background in the convict experience. Those researching a convict ancestor will find the the inclusion of a guide to resources particularly helpful.

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Naomi Clifford

Anyone with an interest in the development of Australia or the transportation of convicts can learn from this text and enjoy the up-close look at the individuals whose own words are used to describe what they saw and experienced.

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Pirates and Privateers, Cindy Vallar

Author features as expert in 'Best Websites' feature

WDYTYA? February 2019

Article: 'Banished for life – for stealing a cart horse' as featured by

Mid Wales Journal/South Shropshire Journal, 28th December 2018

Article: 'Banished for life – for stealing a cart horse' as featured by

Express & Star/Shropshire Star, 26th December 2018 – words by Toby Neal

Eye-opener of a book.

Shropshire Star, 1st January 2019

Article: 'Banished for life – for stealing a cart horse'

Bridgnorth Journal, 27th December 2018

Many of the stories were horrific, while a few had happier endings. It really was a test of character and the ability to adapt under severe circumstances. Overall, an interesting read in a period of history which saw the development of the white man in Australia.

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Amazon Customer, Rosie Amber

This is undoubtedly a ‘sincere’ book, written to explain a complicated situation and doing it well.

Keith Rimmer, NZ Crown Mines

Lucy Williams contributes to the 'Meet The Author' feature discussing Convicts in the Colonies

WDYTYA? magazine, January 2019

Article: Banished for life – for stealing a cart horse as featured by

Shropshire Star, 15th December 2018 (online) - words by Toby Neal

As featured by

Lancashire & North West magazine, January 2019

The author charts the journey of criminals from court to colony during the eighty years of transportation from Britain to the Australian colonies. The biographies she presents show the variety of causes for transportation, the conditions in which people were kept before and during transportation, and the different outcomes for transportees. Some did well in Australia becoming wealthy and well-known once they received their freedom, but most lived in obscurity, or were in and out of the penal system as they may have, had they stayed in Britain.

I enjoyed this book and found the stories very affecting. I also enjoyed the detailed descriptions of life in prison, hulks, ships, penal colony and free life in colonial Australia.

Rosie Writes... Blog

About Lucy Williams

Lucy Williams is a writer and historian with a Ph.D from the University of Liverpool. She specialises in the history of Crime, Women and Gender, and the Social History of the nineteenth century. She has spent the last four years researching the history of convict transportation to Australia as part of the Digital Panopticon project. Her other publications include Wayward Women: Female Offending in Victorian England, and Criminal Women 1850-1920.

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