The Ferringees are flying - the ship is ours!': The convict middle passage in colonial South and Southeast Asia, 1790-1860
journal contributionposted on 09.11.2011, 14:02 by Clare Anderson
This article is part of a broader project that seeks to 'read against the grain' in reconstructing the experiences of convicts transported overseas to prisons and penal settlements in South and Southeast Asia during the nineteenth century. In many ways, convict ships are empty archival spaces. Colonial officials recorded their departure and arrival, and enumerated and described the convicts on board, often in meticulous detail. However, the limitations of these records make the experiences of convict men and women on board transportation vessels more difficult to access. This article will attempt to do so through an analysis of convict ship mutinies. From the 1830s there were more than a dozen incidents in which convicts rose against their captains and made a bid for freedom. These mutinies were transgressive acts that reveal much about convict journeys into transportation: the limitations of colonial regulation of convict vessels, conditions on board ship, and the alliances forged between convicts and crew. They also reveal the multidimensional nature of the convict middle passage, and dispel simplistic notions of single convict identities and experiences.