The Convict Records of Australia
Documentary heritage submitted by Australia and recommended for inclusion in the Memory of the World Register in 2007.
The forced emigration to the continent of Australia of some 165,000 people in the 180 years between 1788-1868 represents the beginning of the modern age of globalisation by government agency. Transportation transformed forever the lives of these mostly British and Irish convicts, and in turn largely destroyed the way of life of Australia’s Indigenous people. The convicts’ lives were minutely documented by a dedicated bureaucracy, generating a rare body of records of 19th century working class people, from their British roots to their Australian fates. These records contain information relating to all aspects of convicts’ lives, including physical appearance, literacy level, trade or calling, crime and sentence, behaviour in incarceration, further punishment, pardon, ticket of leave and marriage. The forensic details about individual convicts have enabled historians to build a picture of the human capital which shaped the economy, demography and culture of early colonial Australia.