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Transportation, Deportation and Exile: Perspectives from the Colonies in the Nineteenth and Twentieth Centuries

  • Christian G. De Vito (a1), Clare Anderson (a2) and Ulbe Bosma (a3)


The essays in this volume provide a new perspective on the history of convicts and penal colonies. They demonstrate that the nineteenth and twentieth centuries were a critical period in the reconfiguration of empires, imperial governmentality, and punishment, including through extensive punitive relocation and associated extractive labour. Ranging across the global contexts of Africa, Asia, Australasia, Japan, the Americas, the Pacific, Russia, and Europe, and exploring issues of criminalization, political repression, and convict management alongside those of race, gender, space, and circulation, this collection offers a perspective from the colonies that radically transforms accepted narratives of the history of empire and the history of punishment. In this introduction, we argue that a colony-centred perspective reveals that, during a critical period in world history, convicts and penal colonies created new spatial hierarchies, enabled the incorporation of territories into spheres of imperial influence, and forged new connections and distinctions between “metropoles” and “colonies”. Convicts and penal colonies enabled the formation of expansive and networked global configurations and processes, a factor hitherto unappreciated in the literature.

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The research leading to these results has received funding from the European Research Council under the European Union’s Seventh Framework Programme (FP/2007–2013) / ERC Grant Agreement 312542.



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1 Burton, Antoinette and Ballantyne, Tony (eds), World Histories From Below: Disruption and Dissent, 1750 to the Present (London, 2016); Ghosh, Durba, “Another Set of Imperial Turns?”, American Historical Review, 117:3 (2012), pp. 772793; Howe, Stephen (ed.), The New Imperial Histories Reader (London, 2010); Wilson, Kathleen (ed.), A New Imperial History: Culture, Identity, and Modernity in Britain and the Empire, 1660–1840 (Cambridge, 2004).

2 Gibson, Mary, “Global Perspectives on the Birth of the Prison”, American Historical Review, 116:4 (2011), pp. 10401063 .

3 Anderson, Clare, “Introduction: A Global History of Convicts and Penal Colonies”, in idem (ed.), A Global History of Convicts and Penal Colonies (London, 2018), pp. 135 .

4 Duffield, Ian and Bradley, James (eds), Representing Convicts: New Perspectives on Convict Forced Labour Migration (London, 1997); Ekirch, Roger, Bound for America: The Transportation of British Convicts to the Colonies, 1718–1775 (Oxford, 1987); Nicholas, Steven (ed.), Convict Workers: Reinterpreting Australia’s Past (Cambridge, 1988); Pike, Ruth, Penal Servitude in Early Modern Spain (Madison, WI, 1983); Waley-Cohen, Joanna, Exile in Mid-Qing China: Banishment to Xinjiang, 1758–1820 (New Haven, CT, 1991).

5 Duly, Lesley C., “‘Hottentots to Hobart and Sydney’: The Cape Supreme Court’s Use of Transportation, 1828–38”, Australian Journal of Politics and History, 25:1 (1979), pp. 3950 ; Duffield, Ian, “From Slave Colonies to Penal Colonies: The West Indian Convict Transportees to Australia”, Slavery and Abolition, 7:1 (1986), pp. 2545 ; Malherbe, Vertrees Canby, “Khoikhoi and the Question of Convict Transportation from the Cape Colony, 1820–1842”, South African Historical Journal, 17:1 (1985), pp. 1939 .

6 Anderson, Clare, Convicts in the Indian Ocean: Transportation from South Asia to Mauritius, 1815–53 (Basingstoke, 2000); Coates, Timothy J., Convicts and Orphans: Forced and State-Sponsored Colonizers in the Portuguese Empire, 1550–1755 (Stanford, CA, 2001); Ward, Kerry, Networks of Empire: Forced Migration in the Dutch East India Company (Cambridge, 2008).

7 For an overview, see Anderson, “Introduction”. See also Clare Anderson and Hamish Maxwell-Stewart, “Convict Labour and the Western Empires, 1415–1954”, in Aldrich, Robert and McKenzie, Kirsten (eds), The Routledge History of Western Empires (London, 2013), pp. 102117 . Regional studies include: Salvatore, Ricardo D. and Aguirre, Carlos, “Colonies of Settlement or Places of Banishment and Torment? Penal Colonies and Convict Labour in Latin America, c.1800–1940”, in Christian G. De Vito and Alex Lichtenstein (eds), Global Convict Labour (Leiden, 2016), pp. 273309 ; Anderson, Clare, “A Global History of Exile in Asia, c.1700–1900”, in Ronit Ricci (ed.), Exile in Colonial Asia: Kings, Convicts, Commemoration (Honolulu, HI, 2016), pp. 2047 ; Coates, Timothy J., Convict Labor in the Portuguese Empire, 1740–1932: Redefining the Empire with Forced Labor and New Imperialism (Leiden, 2014); Coates, Timothy J., “The Long View of Convict Labour in the Portuguese Empire, 1415–1932”, in De Vito and Lichtenstein, Global Convict Labour, pp. 144167 ; De Vito, Christian G., “Convict Labor in the Southern Borderlands of Latin America (c.1750s–1910s): Comparative Perspectives”, in Marcel van der Linden and Magaly Rodríguez García (eds), On Coerced Labor: Work and Compulsion after Chattel Slavery (Leiden, 2016), pp. 98126 ; Fitzpatrick, Matthew P., Purging the Empire: Mass Expulsions in Germany, 1871–1914 (Oxford, 2015); Gheith, J.M. and Jolluck, K.R., Gulag Voices: Oral Histories of Soviet Incarceration and Exile (Basingstoke, 2010); Gentes, A.A., Exile to Siberia, 1590–1822 (Basingstoke, 2008); idem, Exile, Murder and Madness in Siberia, 1823–61 (Basingstoke, 2010); Heinsen, Johan Lund, Mutiny in the Danish Atlantic World: Convicts, Sailors and a Dissonant Empire (London, 2017); Spieler, Miranda F., Empire and Underworld: Captivity in French Guiana (Cambridge, MA, 2012); Sanchez, Jean-Lucien, À perpétuité. Relégués au bagne de Guyane (Paris, 2013); Steiner, Stephan, “‘An Austrian Cayenne’: Convict Labour and Deportation in the Habsburg Empire of the Early Modern Period”, in De Vito and Lichtenstein, Global Convict Labour, pp. 126143 . An important sub-field is represented by the study of penal servitude in the galleys: Marc Vigié, Les galériens du roi, 1661–1715 (Paris, 1985); Castan, Nicole, Zysberg, André, and Petit, Jacques-Guy, Histoire des galères, bagnes et prisons en France de l’Ancien Régime (Toulouse, 1991); de las Heras, José Luis, “Los galeotes de la monarquía hispánica durante el antiguo régimen”, Studia histórica, 22 (2000), pp. 283300 ; Basso, Luca Lo, Uomini da remo. Galee e galeotti del Mediterraneo in età moderna (Milan, 2003); Wheat, David, “Mediterranean Slavery, New World Transformations: Galley Slaves in the Spanish Caribbean, 1578–1635”, Slavery and Abolition, 31:3 (2010), pp. 327344 ; Fariba Zarinebaf, Crime and Punishment in Istanbul, 1700–1800 (Berkeley, CA, 2010); Martínez Martínez, Manuel, Los forzados de marina en la España del siglo XVIII (1700–1775) (Almería, 2011).

8 Anderson, Clare et al., “Locating Penal Transportation: Punishment, Space, and Place c.1750 to 1900”, in Karen M. Morin and Dominique Moran (eds), Historical Geographies of Prisons: Unlocking the Usable Carceral Past (London, 2016), pp. 147167 ; Brass, Tom and van der Linden, Marcel (eds), Free and Unfree Labour (Berne, 1997); Bosma, Ulbe, “European Colonial Soldiers in the Nineteenth Century: Their Role in White Global Migration and Patterns of Colonial Settlement”, Journal of Global History, 4:2 (2009), pp. 317336 .

9 Foucault, Michel, Discipline and Punish: The Birth of the Prison (London, 1977). See also Garland, David, Punishment and Modern Society: A Study in Social Theory (Oxford, 1991), chs 6 and 7.

10 This approach was first pioneered at the University of Leicester, during the 1999 conference “Colonial Spaces, Convict Places: Penal Transportation in Comparative Global Perspective”. Since 2013, Leicester has hosted the ERC-funded project “The Carceral Archipelago: Transnational Circulations in Global Perspective, 1415–1960”, which has encompassed new research on penal transportation within British Asia, the Australian colonies, Bermuda, Gibraltar, Zanzibar, the British Caribbean, Cape Colony, French Guiana, New Caledonia, the Spanish Empire, Ecuador, Russia (Sakhalin), and Japan (including Hokkaido). Since 2014, the NWO project “Four Centuries of Labour Camps: War, Rehabilitation, Ethnicity”, based at the International Institute of Social History (IISH) and the Institute for War, Holocaust and Genocide Studies (NIOD), Amsterdam, has focused particularly on labour camps, working on the Netherlands Indies, Hamburg, Italy and the Italian colonies, and imperial and Soviet Russia. For the Carceral Archipelago project, see and; last accessed 11 March 2018. For the Labour Camps project, see; last accessed 11 March 2018.

11 See especially Bernault, Florence (ed.), Enfermement, prison et châtiments en Afrique. Du 19 e siècle à nos jours (Paris, 1999); Dikötter, Frank and Brown, Ian (eds), Cultures of Confinement: A History of the Prison in Africa, Asia, and Latin America (London, 2007).

12 Anderson, Clare, Frykman, Niklas, Heerma van Voss, Lex, and Rediker, Marcus (eds), “Mutiny and Maritime Radicalism in the Age of Revolution: A Global Survey”, International Review of Social History, 58: Special Issue 21 (2013); Armitage, David and Subrahmanyam, Sanjay, The Age of Revolutions in Global Context, c.1760–1840 (London, 2010). On the rise of liberalism and the relationship between nation- and empire-building: Fradera, Josep M., La nación imperial (1750–1918), 2 vols (Barcelona, 2015), 1 ; Berger, Stefan and Miller, Alexei (eds), Nationalizing Empires (Budapest and New York, 2015).

13 Cf. Agamben, Giorgio, State of Exception (Chicago, IL, 2005).

14 Baud, Michiel and van Schendel, Willem, “Toward a Comparative History of Borderlands”, Journal of World History, 8:2 (1997), pp. 211242 ; Daniels, Christine and Kennedy, Michael V. (eds), Negotiated Empires: Centers and Peripheries in the Americas, 1500–1820 (New York, 2002); Gruzinski, Serge, Les Quatre Parties du monde. Histoire d’une mondialisation (Paris, 2004); Subrahmanyam, Sanjay, Explorations in Connected History: From the Tagus to the Ganges (Oxford, 2005); Withers, C.W.J., “Place and the ‘Spatial Turn’ in Geography and in History”, Journal of the History of Ideas, 70:4 (2009), pp. 637658 ; Benton, Lauren, A Search for Sovereignty: Law and Geography in European Empires, 1400–1900 (Cambridge, 2010); Lee, Wayne E. (ed.), Empires and Indigenes: Intercultural Alliance, Imperial Expansion, and Warfare in the Early Modern World (New York, 2011); Lester, Alan, “Spatial Concepts and the Historical Geographies of British Colonialism”, in Andrew Thompson (ed.), Writing Imperial Histories (Manchester, 2013), pp. 118142 ; Readman, Paul, Radding, Cynthia, and Bryant, Chad (eds), Borderlands in World History, 1700–1914 (Houndmills, 2014); Herzog, Tamar, Frontiers of Possession: Spain and Portugal in Europe and the Americas (Cambridge, MA, 2015); Bassi, Ernesto, An Aqueous Territory: Sailor Geographies and New Granada’s Transimperial Greater Caribbean World (Durham, NC, 2016); Favarò, Valentina, Merluzzi, Manfredi, and Sabatini, Gaetano (eds), Fronteras. Procesos y practicas de integración y conflictos entre Europa y América (siglos XVI–XX) (Madrid, 2017).

15 Discussion on the “success” or “failure” of penal colonization, considered exclusively from the perspective of the imperial authorities, is a feature of much of the historiography. See, for example, Coates, Convict Labor in the Portuguese Empire, pp. 125–129; Mehl, Eva Maria, Forced Migration in the Spanish Pacific World: From Mexico to the Philippines, 1765–1811 (Cambridge, 2016), pp. 258266 .

16 Arnold, David, Colonizing the Body: State Medicine and Epidemic Disease in Nineteenth-Century India (Berkeley, CA, 1993); Cooper, Frederick and Stoler, Ann Laura (eds), Tensions of Empire: Colonial Cultures in a Bourgeois World (Berkeley, CA, 1997).

17 Damousi, Joy, Depraved and Disorderly: Female Convicts, Sexuality and Gender in Colonial Australia (Cambridge, 1997); Reid, Kirsty, Gender, Crime and Empire: Convicts, Settlers and the State in Early Colonial Australia (Manchester, 2007); Anderson, Clare, Subaltern Lives: Biographies of Colonialism in the Indian Ocean World, 1790–1920 (Cambridge, 2012); Healey, Dan, Russian Homophobia from Stalin to Sochi (London, 2017), ch. 1. See also Schrader, Abby M., “Unruly Felons and Civilizing Wives: Cultivating Marriage in the Siberian Exile System, 1822–1860”, Slavic Review, 66:2 (2007), pp. 230256 .

18 Sakata, Minako, “Japan in the 18th and 19th Centuries”, in Anderson, A Global History of Convicts and Penal Colonies, pp. 307335 .

19 See also Anderson, Clare, “Transnational Histories of Penal Transportation: Punishment, Labour and Governance in the British Imperial World, 1788–1939”, Australian Historical Studies, 47:3 (2016), pp. 381397 .

20 The classic text is Laura Stoler, Ann and Cooper, Frederick, “Between Metropole and Colony: Rethinking a Research Agenda”, in Cooper and Stoler, Tensions of Empire, pp. 156 .

21 Darwin, John, The Empire Project: The Rise and Fall of the British World-System, 1830–1970 (Cambridge, 2009).

22 See especially Fradera, La nación imperial; Berger and Miller, Nationalizing Empires.

23 Redfield, Peter, Space in the Tropics: From Convicts to Rockets in French Guiana (Berkeley, CA, 2000); Barbançon, Louis-José, L’archipel des forçats. Histoire du bagne de Nouvelle-Calédonie (1863-1931) (Pas-de-Calais, 2003); Donet-Vincent, Danielle, De soleil et de silences. Histoire des bagnes de Guyane (Paris, 2003). On French colonial theory, see Betts, Raymond F., Assimilation and Association in French Colonial Theory, 1890-1914 (Lincoln, NE, 1960); Conklin, Alice L., A Mission to Civilize: The Republican Idea of Empire in France and West Africa, 1895-1930 (Stanford, CA, 1997).

While arguing that a shift from assimilation to association took place in French colonial theory in the two decades before World War I, Betts acknowledges that the practical impact of such transformation was limited (particularly outside Indochina and North Africa). There is no sign of a move away from assimilation in the legal field.

24 See also Coates, Convict Labor in the Portuguese Empire.

25 Anderson, “Transnational Histories of Penal Transportation”.

26 Fradera, Josep M., Colonias para después de un imperio (Barcelona, 2005).

27 Fitzpatrick, Purging the Empire, especially ch. 1 (pp. 19–38).

28 Benjamin Weber, “America’s Carceral Empire: Confinement, Punishment, and Work at Home and Abroad, 1865–1946” (Ph.D., Harvard University, 2017). On internal penal colonization, see, for example, Da Passano, Mario (ed.), Le colonie penali nell’Europa dell’Ottocento (Rome, 2004); Burillo Albacete, Fernando José, La cuestión penitenciaria. Del Sexenio a la Restauración (1868–1913) (Zaragoza, 2011), pp. 191208 ; Gibson, Mary and Poerio, Ilaria, “Modern Europe, 1750–1950”, in Anderson, A Global History of Convicts and Penal Colonies, pp. 337370 .

29 Fitzpatrick, Purging the Empire, p. 38.

30 For a similar argument, see Hussain, Nasser, The Jurisprudence of Emergency: Colonialism and the Rule of Law (Ann Arbor, MI, 2003); Benigno, Francesco and Scuccimarra, Luca (eds), Il governo dell’emergenza. Poteri straordinari e di guerra in Europa tra XVI e XX secolo (Rome, 2007); Evans, Julie, “Colonialism and the Rule of Law: The Case of South Australia”, in Barry Godfrey and Graeme Dunstall (eds), Crime and Empire 1840–1940: Criminal Justice in Local and Global Context (Routledge, 2012), pp. 5775 ; Fitzpatrick, Purging the Empire.

31 Kalifa, Dominique, Biribi. Les bagnes coloniaux de l’armée française (Paris, 2009).

32 Botsman, Daniel V., Punishment and Power in the Making of Modern Japan (Princeton, NJ, 2005), p. 207 .

33 Neilson, Briony, “The Paradox of Penal Colonization: Debates on Convict Transportation at the International Prison Congresses 1872–1895”, French History and Civilization, 6 (2015), pp. 198211 .

34 See, for example, Burillo Albacete, La cuestión penitenciaria, pp. 62–67; Neilson, “The Paradox of Penal Colonization”.

35 Shafir, Nir, “The International Congress as Scientific and Diplomatic Technology: Global Intellectual Exchange in the International Prison Congress, 1860–90”, Journal of Global History, 9:1 (2014), pp. 7293 . On the prison system in British India, see, especially, Arnold, David, “India: The Contested Prison”, in Dikötter and Brown, Cultures of Confinement, pp. 147184 ; Anderson, Clare, The Indian Uprising of 1857–8. Prisons, Prisoners and Rebellion (London, 2007), especially pp. 2654 .

36 See especially Salvatore, Ricardo D. and Aguirre, Carlos (eds), The Birth of the Penitentiary in Latin America: Essays on Criminology, Prison Reform, and Social Control, 1830–1940 (Austin, TX, 1996); Bernault, Enfermement, prison et châtiments en Afrique; Dikötter and Brown, Cultures of Confinement; Gibson, “Global Perspectives on the Birth of the Prison”.

37 Elias, Norbert, The Civilizing Process (London, 1939); Garland, Punishment and Modern Society, ch. 10.

38 Neilson, “The Paradox of Penal Colonization”, p. 11.

39 On the “century of the camps”, see Kotek, Joël and Rigoulot, Pierre, Le siècle des camps. Détention, concentration, extermination. Cent ans de mal radical (Paris, 2000). See also Laura Stoler, Ann, Duress: Imperial Durabilities in Our Times (Durham, NC, 2016), ch. 3.

40 Viola, Lynne, The Unknown Gulag: The Lost World of Stalin’s Special Settlements (Oxford, 2007).

41 Wachsmann, Nikolaus, Hitler’s Prisons: Legal Terror in Nazi Germany (New Haven, CT, 2004); De Vito, Christian G., Futselaar, Ralf, and Grevers, Helen (eds), Incarceration and Regime Change: European Prisons During and After the Second World War (New York, 2016). See also Forth, Aidan, Barbed-Wire Imperialism: Britain’s Empire of Camps, 1876–1903 (Berkeley, CA, 2017).

42 Madley, Benjamin, “From Africa to Auschwitz: How German South West Africa Incubated Ideas and Methods Adopted and Developed by the Nazis in Eastern Europe”, European History Quarterly, 35:3 (2005), pp. 429464 ; Mühlhahn, Klaus, “The Concentration Camp in Global Historical Perspective”, History Compass, 8:6 (2010), pp. 543561 ; Hyslop, Jonathan, “The Invention of the Concentration Camp: Cuba, Southern Africa and the Philippines, 1896–1907”, South African Historical Journal, 63:2 (2002), pp. 251276 ; Kreienbaum, Jonas, “Deadly Learning? Concentration Camps in Colonial Wars Around 1900”, in Volker Barth and Roland Cvetkovski (eds), Imperial Co-Operation and Transfer, 1870–1930: Empires and Encounters (London, 2015), pp. 219235 . For different perspectives, see also Linne, Karsten, “The ‘New Labour Policy’ in Nazi Colonial Planning for Africa”, International Review of Social History, 49:2 (2004), pp. 197224 ; Bernhard, Patrick, “Hitler’s Africa in the East: Italian Colonialism as a Model for German Planning in Eastern Europe”, Journal of Contemporary History, 51:1 (2016), pp. 6190 .

* The research leading to these results has received funding from the European Research Council under the European Union’s Seventh Framework Programme (FP/2007–2013) / ERC Grant Agreement 312542.

Transportation, Deportation and Exile: Perspectives from the Colonies in the Nineteenth and Twentieth Centuries

  • Christian G. De Vito (a1), Clare Anderson (a2) and Ulbe Bosma (a3)


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