Convict Sydney

This course has no current classes. Please the waiting list.

Convicts transported to Sydney were not ‘soul traded’ like slaves. The English government only owned their labour. Explore the vibrant world created by the management of the convict as worker with spare time in which he could sell his own labour or she could contrive to get a ‘shop’. Houses, food, clothes, shops, public buildings and the streets will be examined in detailed discussion of original documents. We are not interested in whether the convicts were ‘good’ or ‘bad’ but the architecture of their lives, the limits of their world.


  • A. Atkinson and M. Aveling ed., Australians 1838, Melbourne, 1988.
  • P.J. Byrne, Criminal Law and Colonial Subject, Cambridge, 1993.
  • Barrie Dyster, Servant & Master: Building and Running the Grand Houses of Sydney 1788-1850, New South Wales University Press, 1989
  • Mollie Gillen, The Founders of Australia, Sydney, 1989.
  • David Levell, Tour to Hell: Convict Australia’s Great Escape Myths, Brisbane, 2008.
  • Monica Perrot, A Tolerable Good Success, Sydney 1983.
  • Portia Robinson, The Women of Botany Bay, Sydney, 1988.
  • Annette Salt, These outcast women : the Parramatta Female Factory 1821-1848, Sydney, 1984.
  • Babette Smith, A Cargo of Women, Sydney, 2009.


  • The ship – the culture of the voyage, dress and style on board ship, tattoos, fear and superstition, going home
  • Work – the lash, work and pleasure, multi skilling, surveillance, time, 'spare hours'
  • Rations and rent, the female economy, cooking and soap
  • Bushranging, going to 'Finan'
  • ‘Free’ as an oppressive category – Cockatoo Island