chapter  10
15 Pages

‘The general softening of manners among us’

Music and the moral power of nostalgia in a colonial penal colony
WithAlan Maddox

The softened emotional tone reinforces the impulse to self-improvement and cooperation fostered by the ‘moral economy’ of the Marks System. Maconochie conceived this system as a ‘moral economy’ and integral to his armoury of reforming influences on the convicts were literature and music, conceived not as abstract aesthetic experiences, but as means of moral improvement, facilitating the prisoners’ transition from selfish brutality to civilised social being. Music served all of the goals in the prison life by fostering morally desirable traits of cooperation and subordination, while also distracting prisoners from the harsh reality of prison life. Nostalgia directly links emotion and heritage, since it is an emotional state which is a response specifically to engagement with the past, but it was understood until well into the nineteenth century as an engagement which could easily spiral out of control into a destructively consuming passion.