The Floating Brothel: The Extraordinary Story of Female Convicts Bound for Botany Bay

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Media: BOOK - paperback, 268 pages
Author: S. Rees
Year: 2010
ISBN: 9780733624636
Other: 2nd ed., b&w photos, map, bibliog, index
Publisher: Hachette Australia

'Not much attempt had been made to enforce discipline among the women, many of them London prostitutes, who had turned the ship into a floating brothel at her various ports of call.' - Lieutenant Riou, Commander of 'The Guardian' 1789-1791

"The Floating Brothel" is the antidote for bodice-ripping history, exposing the story of 237 female convicts - mainly taken from London's fever-ridden, overcrowded Newgate Gaol - to the fledgling colony of New South Wales. Though it was percieved that the ship was rife with prostitution and debauchery, the reality was more complex and more interesting, differing dramatically from the well-known stories of hellish journeys to Australia.

According to custom, each sailor was entitled to take a women, an arrangement that brought privileges to the woman as well as relief for the men. John Nicol, steward and ship's cooper for the voyage, fell deeply in love with 19 year old Sarah Whitelam, convicted of theft worth more than 51 shillings. Their child was one of several born during the voyage. What happened to them after arriving at Port Jackson is one of the many fascinating stories in this lively and refreshing book. The author casts new light on an important and under-documented corner of Australia's history.

Based on masses of painstaking research into contemporary sources such as the convicts' trial records-most of them were prostitutes or petty thieves-and the first-hand account of the voyage written by the ship's steward, John Nicol, this is a riveting work of recovered history.

1. Disorderly Girls
2. Fair British Nymphs
3. Gaol Fever
4. Galleons Reach
5. Life in the River
6. Capital Convicts Condemned
7. Leaving London
8. Becoming in Turns Outrageous
9. Santa Cruz de Tenerife
10. Crossing the Line
11. The Birth of John Nicol Junior
12. The Wreck of the 'Guardian'
13. Cape Town to Sydney Cove
14. A Cargo So Unnecessary
15. Love Pilgrimages
Map: The Voyage of the 'Lady Julian', July 1789-June 1790
Select Bibliography
A Note to Readers

2 Reviews
  • Floating Brothel by Sian Rees

    Posted by John R. McLean on 4th Jan 2023

    Plausibly a correct story that is based on fact really enjoyed reading it!

  • Not just for those interested in convict ships

    Posted by Susie on 12th Feb 2020

    The author has clearly put a great deal of effort and time into researching this topic and has managed to weave factual information about life during the late 1700s (both on land and while at sea) to show how these conditions caused the lives of various individuals to inter-twine. It tells their complete stories from their time in Britain to their arrival in Australia.This book is not only a valuable resource for those who may have ancestors who were aboard these ships but would be of value to any family historian whose ancestors (either convict or crew) arrived by ship in the early days of Australia's colonisation. It would also be of interest to anyone who is fascinated with sailing ships in general and/or life during the late 1700s. I have found it an enjoyable and interesting read and I recommend it very highly.

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The Floating Brothel: The Extraordinary Story of Female Convicts Bound for Botany Bay

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