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Founders and Survivors at the European Social Science History Conference


The Founders and Survivors research team presented four papers at the European Social Science History conference, Glasgow, 11-14 April 2012.

Work, Punishment and Death in Convict Australia

Hamish Maxwell-Stewart

Convict transportation to Australia is often thought of as particularly harsh form of punishment. Contrary to its representation in the popular literature, however, death rates for male convicts under sentence in Australia were comparable to those for the equivalent age cohorts in the British Isles. Perhaps surprisingly those for their female counterparts were even lower, reversing the British trend between the genders. While some forms of punishment, especially hard labour in road and chain gangs and penal stations appear to have elevated colonial death rates, this excess mortality appears to have been offset by the relatively benign conditions encountered by convicts employed in less coercive locations. This paper will examine the impacts of punishment, nutrition, accommodation and medical treatment on mortality. In doing so it will pay particular attention to the factors which lay behind the very low death rates recorded for convict women. It will argue that this may have resulted from restrictions that were imposed upon female convicts. To put this another way, regulations which cut down on the social rights of transported prisoners conversely enabled a greater number to survive to the point where they gained their freedom. The paper will also explore some of the long-run implications of this apparent paradox.

Swing Rioters and Others: A Pilot Study of Male Convicts Transported to Tasmania, 1831-1846

Rebecca Kippen and Janet McCalman

This paper reports on a pilot study of a sample of male convicts transported to Van Diemen’s Land between 1831 and 1846. The pilot aims to discern whether a select group of 332 political offenders—the ‘Swing Rioters’—were different from other convicts before transportation, in their experience under sentence, and after sentence. Convict life courses have been traced by a group of expert volunteers.

We find that the Swing Rioters were clearly different in their social and human capital and this, combined with the wide social support for their cause, mitigated the stigma of convictism and the intensity of interactions between the convict and penal discipline. Even controlling for background characteristics, the Swing Rioters had fewer offences and experienced less punishment than other convicts. They also remained more visible after sentence, were more likely to establish viable family lines, and lived longer than other convicts.

Stayers and Leavers, Diggers and Canucks: The 1914–1918 War in Comparative Perspective

John Cranfield and Kris Inwood

We use World War I Attestation Papers to explore differences in stature of British and native born enlistees in the Australian Imperial Forces (AIF) and Canadian Expeditionary Forces (CEF). Results suggest important differences with respect to the growth path these two former colonies followed. Australia followed a biological standard of living growth path best characterized as non-changing in the later half of the 19th century, while the biological standard of living amongst Canadian born CEF enlistees fell during the same period. In contrast the biological standard of living for British born troops in the AIF and CEF suggest a varied and somewhat idiosyncratic growth path. Important socio-economic status effects captured through occupation, as well as religious affiliation, suggest a differential effect of social status in shaping stature of AIF and CEF enlistees, as well as a complex milieu between country of birth, and occupation and religion. Lastly, we note the stature advantage held by the Irish born persist in the context of enlistment in colonial forces.

TextCat: A Text Mining Tool for Deriving Categories from Unstructured Text

Damminda Alahakoon, Sue Bedingfield, James Bradley, Sandra Silcot and Len Smith

Prosopographical sources frequently consist of semantically rich unstructured or semi-structured text, such as descriptions of locations, physical appearance, diseases, life events and so on. Researchers will often wish to classify or categorise this text in a way which reflects some underlying or 'natural' structure. We describe a general purpose tool based on the growing self-organised map (GSOM) and its application to Founders and Survivors semi-structured textual data. GSOM is a data mining algorithm which allows the analyst to determine the specificity or generality of the categories derived, and also potentially derive hierarchical categories. This tool may be used in conjunction with a markup language such as the Text Encoding Initiative to make the text source available for systematic prosopographical analysis.

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