Mortality under and after sentence of male convicts transported to Van Diemen's Land (Tasmania), 1840-1852

Rebecca Kippen, Janet McCalman

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleResearchpeer-review

5 Citations (Scopus)


This article reports on mortality in a cohort of 7084 English, Irish and Scottish-born convict men who were transported on 30 ships to Tasmania between 1840 and 1852. To the authors' knowledge, this is the first study of convict mortality that systematically traces the mortality of convicts after emancipation as well as under sentence. This pilot study investigates the relationship between pre-transportation characteristics, convict discipline, reactions to convict discipline, and mortality under and after sentence of the male convict population. The convict men were various in their origins but shared the experience of penal servitude under the gaze of a paper panopticon. Controlling for other factors, the authors find that the convicts were more likely to die under sentence if they were born in Scotland, London or an industrial-urban area; if they exhibited disturbed mental behaviour under sentence, such as tearing their clothes; or if they had more time in solitary confinement or more accumulated insults of their mind and body. For those who survived sentence, mortality was higher for those born in an industrial-urban area, those who had more alcohol-related offences under sentence, those with more time in solitary confinement under sentence, and those who were violent or threatened violence while under sentence.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)345-365
Number of pages21
JournalHistory of the Family
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 18 Mar 2015
Externally publishedYes


  • Van Diemen's Land
  • Tasmania
  • Australia
  • convict history
  • mortality
  • nineteenth century

Cite this