A Decision Made with Conviction
Last updated: August 18th, 2013 by admin
On this day, August 18th, in 1786, the British government took the decision to reduce the notorious overcrowding in British jails by shipping convicts safely away from British soil, to Australia on the other side of the world.
The decision was a reflection of the turbulent times in Europe and specifically in the UK. Industrialization had destroyed many traditional cottage industries and led to migrant workers being forced to move to the growing cities. Those who could find work, found themselves labouring in horrific conditions, while those who couldn’t turned to crime simply to survive. This led to growing pressure on the prison service.
At the same time, the authorities had their eye on social unrest. Continental France was already showing signs of the rebelliousness which would lead to revolution in 1789. In the UK, discontentment with the march of mechanization and the use of cheaper, immigrant labour was exacerbated by food shortages leading to higher prices. These led to civil unrest and eventually formed the basis of the Luddite movement, many of the members of which would wind up in Australia. These days many Australians are proud of their convict ancestry and of being descended from people who had to undergo daily challenges just to survive. None of them enjoyed the benefits of modern travel, from fast planes to immigration translations.