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The Ferringees are flying - the ship is ours!': The convict middle passage in colonial South and Southeast Asia, 1790-1860

By Clare Anderson


This article is part of a broader project that seeks to 'read against the grain' in reconstructing the experiences of convicts transported overseas to prisons and penal settlements in South and Southeast Asia during the nineteenth century. In many ways, convict ships are empty archival spaces. Colonial officials recorded their departure and arrival, and enumerated and described the convicts on board, often in meticulous detail. However, the limitations of these records make the experiences of convict men and women on board transportation vessels more difficult to access. This article will attempt to do so through an analysis of convict ship mutinies. From the 1830s there were more than a dozen incidents in which convicts rose against their captains and made a bid for freedom. These mutinies were transgressive acts that reveal much about convict journeys into transportation: the limitations of colonial regulation of convict vessels, conditions on board ship, and the alliances forged between convicts and crew. They also reveal the multidimensional nature of the convict middle passage, and dispel simplistic notions of single convict identities and experiences.Peer-reviewedPost-prin

Publisher: Sage
Year: 2005
DOI identifier: 10.1177/001946460504200201
OAI identifier: oai:lra.le.ac.uk:2381/9841

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  1. 1832): James Peish, commander Fort William, to J.D. Devitre, senior magistrate of police Bombay,
  2. 1839): deposition of captain F.N.
  3. 1841): list of convicts to Singapore per Freak,
  4. 1842): deposition of convict Michael Anthony,
  5. 1842): deposition of second mate Francis Ward,
  6. 1844): deposition of second mate Thomas Jones,
  7. 1848): statement of Lieut.
  8. 1850): Nation to Grant,
  9. 1851): F.J. Lougham, sessions judge Patna, to E.A. Samuel, officiating register sudder nizamat adalat, n.d.
  10. 1851): list of convicts to Moulmein per
  11. 1854): A report of survey upon the under mentioned ship [Clarissa] tendered for conveyance of native convicts to Malacca, n.d.
  12. 1854): deposition and information of Peerbuksh son of Nemoolla aged about 30 of Dinapore lately employed as Clashie [kalassi] on board the Clarissa,
  13. 1854): deposition of first officer James Squire,
  14. 1854): deposition of Sheikh Suvraj son of
  15. 1854): Tickell to Bogle,
  16. 1855): deposition of Assah Singh, son of Chur Sing,
  17. 1855): deposition of Boor Singh son of
  18. 1855): deposition of first officer
  19. 1855): deposition of Kurrim Singh,
  20. 1855): deposition of Shaik Sooiah,
  21. Between the Devil, doi
  22. Circumstances’, doi
  23. Compiled from records in the IOR Bengal, Bombay and India Judicial Proceedings series and press reports.
  24. Correspondence took place with the Bengal government during 1858. The judicial proceedings for most
  25. I would speculate that the bhils on board had been caught up in resistance against the extension of British control over the forests of western India.
  26. (1859). Ibid.: advocate-general’s opinion,
  27. (1854). Ibid.: deposition and information of Charles Blaney aged 14 years and 7 months third mate on board the barque Clarissa,
  28. (1854). Ibid.: deposition and information of Sheikh Suvraj son of
  29. (1854). Ibid.: deposition of Beejah Sing son of Punchum sing,
  30. (1854). Ibid.: deposition of Bunkur Doss son of Sewa Sing,
  31. (1854). Ibid.: deposition of Bunkur Doss, son of Sewa Sing,
  32. (1854). Ibid.: deposition of Casee Barah,
  33. (1854). Ibid.: deposition of Chatoo, son of Lahoree,
  34. Ibid.: deposition of Chatoo, son of Lahoree, convict no.
  35. (1841). Ibid.: deposition of convict Michael Anthony,
  36. (1854). Ibid.: deposition of convict Verream Sing son of
  37. (1854). Ibid.: deposition of Edoo Serang,
  38. (1854). Ibid.: deposition of kalassi Goolab,
  39. (1841). Ibid.: deposition of second mate Francis Ward,
  40. Ibid.: deposition of Sheik Kurwodeen,
  41. (1854). Ibid.: deposition of Sheikh Akhbur son of Sheikh Ruhum,
  42. (1854). Ibid.: deposition of Sheikh Joomur son of Sheikh Talib,
  43. (1854). Ibid.: deposition of Sheikh Kurwodeen,
  44. Ibid.: deposition of Sheikh Ramran son of Russub Alla,
  45. (1854). Ibid.: deposition of Sheikh Ramran,
  46. (1854). Ibid.: deposition of Sheikh Suvraj son of
  47. (1841). Ibid.: depositions of convict Michael Anthony and Second Mate Francis Ward,
  48. (1854). Ibid.: descriptive roll of recaptured life convicts from the Clarissa,
  49. (1854). Ibid.: list of 199 convicts for Melaka per Clarissa,
  50. (1854). Ibid.: list of 199 convicts to Melaka per Clarissa,
  51. Ibid.: translation of a Chinese writing found on the person of a Chinese convict at Pulo Oly,
  52. Legible Bodies, doi
  53. (1851). Lougham to Samuells, n.d.
  54. (1846). marshal Bombay county jail, to Curtis,
  55. On sympathetic alliances between sailors and convicts on Australian convict vessels, see Christopher, ‘“Ten Thousand Times Worse”’.
  56. (1854). secretary to government Bengal,
  57. (1848). The case of the General Wood fed into a growing ambivalence in Singapore about the continued transportation of Chinese convicts to a by now flourishing colonial settlement. See Turnbull, ‘Convicts
  58. The Many-Headed Hydra, doi
  59. (1854). the witnesses testified to this military display. For example:
  60. v. life convicts on the Clarissa; convict depositions nos

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