Convicts sent to Australia from England and Ireland were sentenced to either seven years of hard labour, fourteen years or life. None were allowed to return home. That was the punishment: to live out their lives on the opposite side of the world, far from civilization.
Those who escaped mostly assimilated into Aboriginal tribes beyond the frontier of settlement. Finding a berth for the perilous, eight-month return journey was almost impossible.
In one of history’s customary ironies, some convicts found life in the antipodal hellscape agreeable enough to send for their families, a policy encouraged due to the severe sex imbalance. Colonial women frequently suffered problems during labour because they were small from growing up in poverty while their unborn babies grew large from their mother’s new, protein-rich diet.
They were still poor but land was plentiful and mutton was cheap.
Few of the big, colonial-born subjects of the Empire…
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