Emigrants in Chains: A Social History of Forced Emigration to the Americas of Felons, Destitute Children, Political and Religious Non-Conformists, Vagabonds, Beggars and Other Undesirables, 1607-1776
In a story largely untold until now, Peter Coldham's groundbreaking study demonstrates once and for all that the recruitment of labour for the American colonies was achieved in large measure through the emptying of English prisons, workhouses, brothels, and houses of correction, as felons, rogues and social outcasts were transported fated to toil in the tobacco-growing colonies of Virginia and Maryland.
Supported by a massive array of documentary evidence and first-hand reports, the author lays the focus on the emergence and use of transportation as a means of dealing with an unwanted population, dwelling at length on the processes involved, the men charged with the administration of the system of transportation or engaged in transportation as a business, then proceeding with a fascinating look at the transportees themselves, their lives and hapless careers, and their reception in the colonies.
Few transportees contrived to return to their native country when their sentences expired, and it must be assumed that most such involuntary emigrants were assimilated into colonial society. Their untold story may lack the romance of the cavaliers of Virginia and Maryland - the heroic ring of a dispossessed aristocracy - but it has the stark accent of truth. This is a story to challenge common perceptions and attitudes about the peopling of the American colonies.
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The Convicts and Their Background
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