Young convicts and their vandemonian criminal careers

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The punishment of transportation to Van Diemen's Land (VDL), now Tasmania, began in 1803 when the island was an outpost of the colony of New South Wales. Of the roughly 73,000 convicts subsequently transported to VDL, around 10,000 to 13,000 were juveniles. These juveniles were seen as members of a British underclass. Parliamentary committees, newspapers and penny dreadfuls all helped to construct a stereotypical view of juvenile delinquents as a threat to society. The problematic relationship between youth and authority can be traced back to the sixteenth-century, but rapid population increases created significant new challenges for governments in dealing with criminal youths. Many historians, such as Susan Magarey and Margaret May, and Geoffrey Pearson, have considered juvenile convicts in the context of Victorian notions of delinquency. Others have considered the experiences of male juvenile convicts in the Australian colonies through a focus on institutional settings. In this article I look beyond the institutions, and I seek a more wholistic or longitudinal examination of juvenile convicts, from their convictions and punishments to their postpunishment lives.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)87-102
Number of pages16
JournalJournal of Australian Colonial History
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jul 2021


  • Life Course
  • Historical Criminology
  • juvenile offenders
  • Colonialism
  • Convict Transportation


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