Tuesday 14 November 2017 – Emma Watkins – The lives and criminal careers of juvenile offenders

Venue: John S Cohen Room, N203

Senate House
Malet Street
London WC1E 7HU

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Emma Watkins (Liverpool) is undertaking her thesis, entitled The lives and criminal careers of juvenile offenders, at the University of Liverpool. Her research uses life-course digital record linkage to uncover historical lives.


This research has traced the lives of juveniles convicted at the Old Bailey and transported to Van Diemen’s Land in the early-nineteenth century. As well as their ‘criminal career’, their pre- and post-transportation lives, including: familial life, occupational standing, and mortality were uncovered. These male and female juvenile transportees were then compared and contrasted with other convicts transported to VDL, free immigrants arriving in the colony and the free population back home, and contextualised within the punishment system, economy, and culture that they were thrust into by their forced movement to Australia. This allows an understanding of whether juvenile convicts transported to VDL were able to have ‘successful’ lives. A ‘successful’ life cannot be measured as a tick box exercise. However, certain aspects surrounding the formation of relationships, employment and desistance from crime all point to a ‘successful’ life. Such successes generally may not mean climbing the social and economic spectrum of society, but rather they will mean the formation of a stable and normal working-class life free from crime. In essence, despite their early-life upheaval, were they able to form families and maintain employment? Or were they plagued by unemployment and instability, and criminal activity, related to a lack of ties – be they social or economic? This research aims to uncover what a ‘successful’ life was for these juveniles who underwent transportation to a penal colony, as compared with adult transported convicts and those who arrived as free immigrants. Therefore, this thesis will look at how different factors interacted in supporting or inhibiting a ‘successful’ life. What factors contributed to the ‘success’ of juvenile convicts transported to VDL? What was the lasting impact of the experience of being transported to a penal colony, during youth, on the life-outcomes of this group?

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