Scottish Convicts in Nineteenth-Century Australia

convictsAustralia was first put on the Scottish diaspora map not as a migrant destination of choice, but as a convict settlement. The overall number of convict Scots was, however, low. Of the estimated total of nearly 155,000 convicts sent to the Australian mainland and Van Diemen’s land, only about 8,200 were Scots. A slightly larger proportion of Scots, possibly up to 700, were among the nearly 10,000 male convicts sent to Western Australia between 1850 and 1868. But even these numbers pale compared to those of convicts who arrived from England. As Prentis explains, ‘the Scottish transportation rate was consistently about 20 to 25 per cent’ of that of England. The reason for the relatively small number of Scottish convicts can be found in Scotland’s legal system. Preserved in its …