A Merciless Place: The Lost Story of Britain's Convict Disaster in Africa and How it Led to the Settlement of Australia

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Media: BOOK - paperback, 468 pages
Author: E. Christopher
Year: 2010
ISBN: 9781742372273
Other: colour photos, sketches, bibliog, index
Publisher: Allen & Unwin

This is a story lost to history for over two hundred years; a dirty secret of failure, fatal misjudgement and desperate measures which the British Empire chose to forget almost as soon as it was over.

In the wake of its most crushing defeat, the America War of Independence, the British Government began shipping its criminals to West Africa. Some were transported aboard ships going to pick up their other human cargo: African slaves. When they arrived at their destination, soldiers and even convicts were forced to work in the region's slave-trading forts guarding the human merchandise.

In a few short years the scheme brought death, wholesale desertions, mutiny, piracy and even murder. Some of the most egregious crimes were not committed by the exported criminals but by those sent out to guard them. Acts of wanton desperation added to rash transgressions as those whom society had already thrown out realised that they had nothing left to lose.

As jails and prison hulks overflowed, and as every other alternative settlement proved unsuitable, the British Government gambled and decided to send its criminals as far away as possible, to the great south land sighted years before by Captain James Cook. Out of the embers of the African debacle came the modern nation of Australia.

The extraordinary tale is now being told for the first time - how a small band of good-for-nothing members of the British Empire spanned the world from America, to Africa, and on to Australia, profoundly if utterly unwittingly changing history.

Destinations for Britain's Transported Convicts, c.1770-1800
West Africa, c1780-1822
1. Bound for America
2. Mr Jefferson and Patrick Madan
3. London in Flames
4. The 'Best Sacrifices for Death'
5. Africa
6. The Battle for the Coast
7. Deserting to the Enemy
8. A Plantation with Slaves
9. A Mutiny and a Most Perculiar Murder
10. Trouble at Goree Island
11. 'Naked and Diseased on the Sandy Shore'
12. Tring America Again
13. The Once Mighty are Fallen
14. Lemane Island
15. The End if the African Disaster
List of Abbreviations

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A Merciless Place: The Lost Story of Britain's Convict Disaster in Africa and How it Led to the Settlement of Australia


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