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Sepoys, Servants and Settlers : convict transportation in the Indian Ocean, 1787-1945
chapterposted on 19.03.2014, 14:25 by Clare Anderson
Banishment and exile were common punishments in early modern Europe. Though not subject to confinement or direct corporal interventions per se, criminals were sent away from their communities and localities to an uncertain fate. Physical displacement was central to this type of punishment, for it effected permanent social rupture. With the acquisition of colonies overseas, banishment took on a new character. The dynamics of empire building assured not only the removal of European convicts from home but their subsequent transportation overseas and exploitation as cheap labour. Convicted offenders were sent to distant, unknown lands where they were employed either on public works projects or hired out to free settlers. Often Europeans worked in tandem with other forms of migrant or coerced labour, liked indentured servants or slaves. Though it never entirely replaced imprisonment, transportation was an important supplement to local penal practices. It solved periodic crises of overcrowding, notably during times of economic hardship when prison populations tended to rise. [Opening paragraph]