British, crime, America, transportation, convicts, felons, colonies, punishment, London, Britain
This thesis examines convicts who were tried for the crime of 'returning from transportation' at London's Old Bailey courthouse between 1720 and 1780. While there is plenty of historical scholarship on the tens of thousands of people who endured penal transportation to the American colonies, relatively little attention has been paid to convicts who migrated illegally back to Britain or those who avoided banishment altogether. By examining these convicts, we can gain a better understanding of how transportation worked, how convicts managed to return to Britain, and most importantly, what happened to them there. This thesis argues that convicts resisted transportation by either avoiding it or returning from banishment after obtaining their freedom. However, regardless of how they arrived back in Britain, many failed to reintegrate successfully back into British society, which led to their apprehension and trial. I claim that most convicts avoided the death penalty upon returning and that this encouraged more convicts to resist transportation and return home. The thesis examines the court cases of 132 convicts charged with returning from transportation at the Old Bailey and examines this migration home through the eyes of those who experienced it. First, the thesis focuses on convicts in Britain and demonstrates how negative perceptions of transportation encouraged them to resist banishment. The thesis then highlights how convicts obtained their freedom in the colonies, which gave them the opportunity to return illegally. Finally, the thesis shows that returned felons tried to reintegrate into society by relocating to new cities, leading quiet honest lives, or by returning to a life of crime.
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Master of Arts (M.A.)
College of Arts and Humanities
Length of Campus-only Access
Masters Thesis (Open Access)
Teixeira, Christopher, "The Crime Of Coming Home: British Convicts Returning From Transportation In London, 1720-1780" (2010). Electronic Theses and Dissertations. 4354.