chapter  12
16 Pages

Convict bloodlines

Crime, intergenerational legacies and convict heritage
WithHamish Maxwell-Stewart

This chapter discusses the actual legacy of the convict era was far more complex. As David Roberts points out, views about convicts and their impact on Australian society have rarely been harmonious. While some have argued that the convicts were critical in shaping the cultural identity of Australians, others have downplayed the impact of convict descent. The desire to downplay convict origins was heightened by the nineteenth-century tendency to see crime as a form of infection. Convicts were regarded as a species of malignant disorder that could spread criminal vice to others – a process that could include intergenerational transmission. Most convict labour was assigned or loaned out to private settlers. It has only been with the digitisation of the convict archive that the extent to which punishments rose and fell in line with the costs of maintaining an assigned convict have become apparent.