Pathways to respectability and upward social mobility: twelve white-collar convicts in the Swan River colony

Sandra Potter

Research output: ThesisMaster's Thesis

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There has been little research carried out into the lives of white-collar convicts in Western Australia, or indeed Australia. These men came from middle-class backgrounds, were well educated and were sentenced to transportation to the Swan River Colony after being found guilty of the crimes of fraud, forgery or embezzlement in England. To date, research into white-collar convicts in Western Australia has concluded that they were always conscious of having worn the convict brand on their coat and that they suffered socially because of their convict past. The aim of this thesis is to assess whether it was possible for some white-collar convicts in the Swan River Colony to regain respectability and gain social acceptance amongst free settlers, by examining the lives of a sample group of twelve white-collar expirees who were transported between 1850 and 1868. To contextualize their experiences, the origins and escalation of white-collar crime in Britain is discussed, an historical overview of the transportation of white-collar convicts to North America, the West Indies and then to New South Wales is provided, and changing penal philosophy and its impact on conditions for white-collar convicts is outlined. The reasons for the introduction of convicts to the Swan River Colony and the types of skills required are then discussed, before an examination of the experience of these white-collar convicts on their voyages of transportation to the colony. The chapters that follow, focus on their lives in the colony to assess whether they were able to regain respectability in the eyes of free settlers. The monetary extent of their crimes ranged from £25 to £6000 and all, except one, were first offenders. Their age upon conviction was between sixteen and forty-seven years, and their sentences were between seven and twenty years. Their conduct in English penitentiaries and then during their transport to the colony, ranged from ‘First Class, Good’ to ‘First Class,
Original languageEnglish
Publication statusUnpublished - 2009


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