British Slavery and Australian Colonisation

Research output: Chapter in Book/Conference paperChapterpeer-review


This entry explores the intersecting histories of British slavery and the anti-slavery movement and the colonization of Australia. Focusing on the crucial period between the American Revolution and the French and Caribbean revolutions (1776–1793), I review the ways that debates about slavery, penal discipline, and transportation map changing ideas about race, labor, and rights. This history reveals the role of the anti-slavery movement within imperialism and its imbrication with the apparatus of colonial government. The celebration of British abolition of Caribbean slavery has tended to obscure the impact of slavery on the development of a global labor system in two related ways: First, the prominence of transatlantic slavery has masked the long-term, global story of the role of coercive labor in imperial expansion, including its racial dimensions. Second, it has obscured the ways in which, for the British, race and class were articulated social categories that constituted competing objects of reform. British convicts, overwhelmingly working class, were seen by many as white slaves, and their status remained the focus of tension throughout the operation of transportation. In this way transportation was shaped by slavery but also subsequently determined key aspects of global post-emancipation labor flows. Conversely, as one of the most powerful humanitarian social campaigns ever seen in the Anglophone world, the anti-slavery movement became a fertile source of affective imagery, language, and stories that could be applied to a range of causes in the colonies. Slavery and its abolition shaped desires for freedom and justice and were invoked to contest the oppression of convicts, Aboriginal people, indentured laborers, and women, to the end of the nineteenth century and beyond.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationThe Palgrave Encyclopedia of Imperialism and Anti-Imperialism
EditorsImmanuel Ness, Zak Cope
Place of PublicationCham
PublisherPalgrave Macmillan
Number of pages12
ISBN (Electronic)978-3-319-91206-6
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 17 Jul 2019


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