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Title: Convict passages in the Indian Ocean, c. 1790-1860
Authors: Anderson, Clare
First Published: Jan-2007
Publisher: University of California Press
Citation: Anderson, C, 'Convict passages in the Indian Ocean, c. 1790-1860' ed. Christopher, E., Pybus, c. and Rediker, M., 'Many Middle Passages : Forced Migration and the Making of the Modern World', 2007, pp. 129-149
Abstract: During the first half of the nineteenth century violent disorder broke out on a number of ships of the East India Company carrying convicts from India to Southeast Asia, Mauritius and the Andaman Islands. The East India Company had established a penal settlement for the reception of Indian convicts in Benkulu in 1787, which was followed by more penal settlements in the Andaman Islands (1793-6), Penang (1790-1860), Malacca and Singapore (1825-60), Arakan and the Tenasserim Provinces (1828-62) and Mauritius (1815-53). Indian convicts transported to these settlements came from all religious and caste groups, though low-caste Hindu and tribal communities made up the largest percentage. Most were convicted of crimes against property, including theft, burglary, robbery, and gang robbery (these were called dacoits). Some convicts' offences can be directly linked with resistance against British expansion, as was the case when santals and other tribal groups were transported from eastern India to Burma after the hul (rebellion) of 1855. Transportation ships were central to the process of convict migration and each year up to twenty left from the Bengal, Bombay and Madras presidencies of India, with the number of convicts on board ranging from a dozen to over two hundred. Ship indents suggest that some 30,000 Indian convicts were shipped overseas during the period 1787 to 1858. The number of mutinous voyages was a tiny proportion of the total, nothing like the recent estimates of ten per cent of slave ships that experienced uprisings. What makes the convict mutinies of particular interest is that convict transportation was regulated publicly by the East India Company, unlike the private enterprise of the Atlantic slave trade. Whereas unrest on slave ships could be covered up, disorder of any kind on the convict ships created voluminous records and copies of the extensive colonial enquiries, legal proceedings and newspaper reports all survive. These archival remnants constitute an important glimpse into the culture of convict vessels. They also allow us to place convicts at the centre of shipboard practices, and so to conceptualize the convict passage as a space of creative negotiation and resistance. [Extract from introduction]
ISBN: 9780520252066
Embargo on file until: 1-Jan-10000
Version: Post-print
Status: Peer-reviewed
Type: Chapter
Rights: Copyright © 2007, University of California Press.
Description: The file associated with this record is embargoed while permission to archive is sought from the publisher. The final published version may be available through the links above.
Appears in Collections:Books & Book Chapters, School of Historical Studies

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