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British history

A Merciless Place: The Fate of Britain's Convicts After the American Revolution

Emma Christopher.
Publisher Oxford  
Format hardcover
Product Dimensions 9.5 x 6.5 x 1.4 inches
ISBN 9780199782550
Pages/Publication Date 432/2010
Daedalus Item Code 30724
This item is not available.
From the Australian historian who gave us Slave Trade Sailors and Their Captive Cargoes, this story begins with the American War of Independence, until which many British convicts were shipped across the Atlantic. The war interrupted this flow and inspired two entrepreneurs to organize the criminals into military units to fight for the crown. These felon soldiers went to West Africa's slave-trading posts just as the war ended, and their forts became the new destination for England's rapidly multiplying convicts—with disastrous results. Emma Christopher writes that "before the scheme was abandoned, it would have run the gamut of piracy, treachery, mutiny, starvation, poisonings, allegations of white women forced to prostitute themselves to African men, and not least several cases of murder." To end the scandal, the British government chose a new destination, as far away as possible: Australia.

"The strength of this fine book is the wealth of detail and the subtle and sensitive reading of the evidence that Christopher brings to the subject.... A Merciless Place is an important book that tells the story of the convicts themselves—swept from the streets, often for trifling crimes, and shipped far from home: Virginia, the Gold Coast, and Botany Bay, to name but the most prominent destinations. Their stories epitomize the capricious and peripatetic nature of life and justice for those on the margins of the British Empire during the 18th century."—Journal of American History

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