1st Edition

Anti-Slavery and Australia No Slavery in a Free Land?

By Jane Lydon Copyright 2021
    210 Pages
    by Routledge

    210 Pages
    by Routledge

    Bringing the histories of British anti-slavery and Australian colonization together changes our view of both. This book explores the anti-slavery movement in imperial scope, arguing that colonization in Australasia facilitated emancipation in the Caribbean, even as abolition powerfully shaped the Settler Revolution. The anti-slavery campaign was deeply entwined with the administration of the empire and its diverse peoples, as well as the radical changes demanded by industrialization and rapid social change in Britain. Abolition posed problems to which colonial expansion provided the answer, intimately linking the end of slavery to systematic colonization and Indigenous dispossession. By defining slavery in the Caribbean as the opposite of freedom, a lasting impact of abolition was to relegate other forms of oppression to lesser status, or to deny them. Through the shared concerns of abolitionists, slave-owners, and colonizers, a plastic ideology of ‘free labour’ was embedded within post-emancipation imperialist geopolitics, justifying the proliferation of new forms of unfree labour and defining new racial categories. The celebration of abolition has overshadowed post-emancipation continuities and transformations of slavery that continue to shape the modern world.

    Introduction. ‘An equal portion of liberty’

    1. No slavery in a free land?

    2. ‘Poor creatures’. Antislavery and transportation, 1789-1807

    3. In spite of all the Saints, 1807-1833

    4. Abolition, systematic colonization, and the end of transportation, 1830-1840

    5. Is not the New Hollander a man and a brother? Abolition and Genocide

    6. Anti-slavery in Australia after Emancipation, 1834-1900. ‘We but enliven labour with the lash’

    7. Modern Slavery and Australia


    Jane Lydon is the Wesfarmers Chair of Australian History at The University of Western Australia. Her research centres upon Australia’s colonial past and its legacies in the present. She is interested in the ways that popular and especially visual cultures have shaped ideas and debates about race, identity and culture that persist today.

    "Published at a time when histories of slavery and settler-colonial violence are shaping global debates about how we remember the past, this enormously timely book explores the complex relationship between abolition in the British Empire and settler-colonial expansion... By demonstrating how anti-slavery discourse tolerated, even supported, other systems of unfreedom in the process of settler nation-building, this probing and important book compels us to recognise these histories as being intimately connected to our own."

    Amanda Nettelbeck, Journal of Australian Studies

    Jane Lydon’s new book is a wonderfully lucid account of the interconnections between the ending of slavery in the British Caribbean and the development of the new settler colonies that were to become Australia. It combines drawing on the rich scholarship, much of it very recent, on antislavery, humanitarianism, and the development of new forms of unfree labour, with Lydon’s illuminating use of visual material to explore the details and dynamics of particular moments. … It deserves to be very widely read.

    Catherine Hall, Australian Historical Studies

    As Jane Lydon makes clear, the rise of convict transportation while slavery was in decline in the British Empire was not coincidental but closely interrelated. Lydon teases out the contradictory aspects of both slavery opponents and supporters when it came to expressing views on convict transportation. There is much of value in the book that emerges as part of the comparison … The book presents an argument that is both nuanced and contextualised. [An important] contribution to a re-evaluation of the role of unfree labour – not just in Australia but globally, one that will yield important new insights and to which her book’s part in this should be appreciated. Lydon’s book provides the most thorough, thoughtful and direct comparison of the convicts/slavery interconnections and should be widely read for this reason.

    Michael Quinlan, Labour History

    "In her wonderful book, Anti-Slavery and Australia: No Slavery in a Free Land?, Jane Lydon explores the connections between antislavery and Australia, more specifically the multilayered links, relationships, continuities, and transformations between the abolition of the slave trade, slavery, amelioration, abolition, and apprenticeship; and penal transportation, convict labor, migration, Indigenous devastation, and labor exploitation."

    Clare Anderson, Journal of British Studies