Silent Treatment

Convict schooling aboard transportation vessels

Tasmania is one of the few places in the world where it’s possible to study intergenerational health issues, because the settler population was among the best documented in the British Empire. The lives of nearly 75,000 convicts were meticulously recorded in leather bound volumes by convict clerks. They provide incredible detail on the convict workforce—those who laboured in farms and road gangs or were incarcerated in places like Port Arthur and the female factories.

Exploring the impact of solitary confinement on the health and well-being of the convicts transported to Australia between 1817 and 1853 is the focus for this project.

The project links the detailed life course histories for male and female convicts to psychiatric admission data for Tasmanian 19th century institutions.

This enables the project team to evaluate the impact of different types of punishment on life expectancy and subsequent rates of institutionalisation.

The project constitutes the largest longitudinal survey of the impact of solitary confinement on well-being ever undertaken. It's results aim to inform policy as well as increasing on-line access to Australia's UNESCO Memory of the World registered convict records.