A Palliative to Boredom and Ill-Health: Convict and Emigrant Entertainment at Sea

Research output: Contribution to conferenceConference Abstractpeer-review

Abstract

Australia is a long way away. Today, flying to Australia will take something in the region of 28 hours, door-to-door. To us, today, this feels like a long time. When Bristol’s SS Great Britain operated as an emigrant passenger ship, 39 days was considered a quick journey, and most were 41 or 42 days. In the days before steam, the journey, for convict transports and free settlers alike, could take anything up to a year to complete. This extended period at sea came with two principal problems: boredom and ill-health.

Boredom is an obvious consequence of the journey’s length which could be extended, for the unfortunate convicts, by months on board convict hulks awaiting dispatch to the colonies. Ill-health was a combination of poor diet and a lack of exercise. And even when the convicts, their guards and civil administrators, and the free settlers arrived in Australia they could encounter the same two ailments on dry land. Poor food provision was a major complaint in New South Wales, although far less so in Van Diemen’s Land, and there was, after the day’s work was done, nothing to do.

This paper will examine the solutions to the issues of boredom and ill-health. Apart from the obvious medical solution of attempting to improve diet to combat disease, the other option was entertainment.
Original languageEnglish
Publication statusUnpublished - 2010
Event'The Theatre of Liberty: Identity and Surveillance in the Antipodes, 1780s-1830s', University of Bristol - Bristol, United Kingdom
Duration: 10 Dec 201010 Dec 2010

Workshop

Workshop'The Theatre of Liberty: Identity and Surveillance in the Antipodes, 1780s-1830s', University of Bristol
CountryUnited Kingdom
CityBristol
Period10/12/1010/12/10

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