Beyond the Book: Background information when reading The Lieutenant

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The Lieutenant

by Kate Grenville

The Lieutenant by Kate Grenville
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  • First Published:
    Sep 2009, 320 pages
    Paperback:
    Sep 2010, 320 pages

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The Australian Penal Colonies
You might wonder why Britain would choose to send ships filled with convicts and their jailors to, quite literally, the other side of the world.  The answer is simple economics.

In the 1780s, the British population was increasing fast, as were the effects of the Industrial Revolution which led to the displacement of a great many people who, without land, rights or jobs, were reduced to stealing. 

Meanwhile, Britain, having lost the American Colonies, was on the lookout for new land to colonize.  The east coast of Australia, charted by The Endeavor in 1770, looked like it had potential.  So it was decided that instead of using slaves, the infrastructure of the new colony would be built with convict labor - a free and often skilled work force that also went some way to solving the British convict problem.

On the whole, the convicts sent to Australia were not hardened criminals.  About eight out of ten ...

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