Through the reading of over six hundred journals of surgeons employed in the convict ships to Australia, Charles Bateson has been able to add much additional detail to his authoritative and fascinating story of this little-known field of maritime history.
So little has been written about the ships which carried convicts from the British Isles to Australia that this book opens up an entire new field of maritime history.
For the first time, the strange and often macabre story of these vessels is told in detail. From authoritative sources, official and unofficial. Charles Bateson reconstructs not only the voyages themselves, but also the administrative system under which the ships were selected, provisioned, manned and despatched with their miserable human freight to face a 13,000 miles voyage over tempestuous and largely uncharted seas.
Mr. Bateson describes the duties of the various officers, tells how convicts and guards lived on board these prison ships and reveals the fearful toll taken of men and women by disease and overcrowding. Portion of the book is devoted to the more remarkable voyages from the First Fleet in 1787 to the Hougoumont, the last convict ship to Western Australia, in 1868. It is an amazing record of plot, counterplot and mutiny, of shipwreck and disaster and, on the other side of the picture, of the gradual conquest of disease at sea.
The appendices furnish a complete list of all the ships which carried prisoners to Australia, with the names of their masters and surgeons, their departure and arrival dates and the number of prisoners each carried.
Profusely illustrated by plates, many of which have never before been published, "The Convict Ships, 1787-1868" is not only a work of permanent historic value but a great human document which must fascinate everyone interested in ships and the sea.