France and Botany Bay: The Lure of a Penal Colony
Convict transportation to Britain's colonies in Australia greatly influenced political debate and policy in France. Surprisingly, it's a story that has not previously been told. How may of us know, for example, that the first scholarly history of Australia was French? Depiction of Botany Bay as a moral and economic utopia, and the answer to crime, was the basis of vigorous support for the establishment of a French penal colony. Implacably opposed to transportation were those who saw Botany Bay as a penal disaster. The opposing groups amassed a vast array of material, including accounts of French voyages to the Pacific, Australian newspapers and British parliamentary proceedings and reports. Debate raged. There were floods of impassioned literature. French ships roamed the world in search of an attractive and viable site for their own Botany Bay, and France came close to settling south-west Australia and New Zealand. In the end, the transportationists won. In 1852 France began transportation to French Guiana and in 1863 to New Caledonia. For both settlements, Botany Bay was the model.
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