THE BRITISH LIBRARY

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12 posts categorized "Americas"

12 December 2017

Journals of Albert Hastings Markham

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Where in the library collections might you find watercolour arctic landscapes, playbills, squashed mosquitoes and first-hand accounts of whaling?

We are pleased to announce that the journals of Sir Albert Hastings Markham (1841-1918) have been processed and are now available to request in the Manuscripts Reading Room, under reference Add MS 89230. The journals were acquired at auction in 2015, drawing on the T S Blakeney Fund and with the generous support of the Friends of the British Library and the Eccles Centres for American Studies.

They cover the period from 1871-1902, during which Markham undertook polar reconnaissance in the Arctic and the Kara Sea, surveyed the conditions in the Hudson Bay for the Canadian Government, participated in the British Arctic Expedition (1875-1876), and served in the Navy in the Torpedo School, Pacific Station, and Mediterranean.

Sleddingscene

A sledging scene under sail, Add MS 89230/2/1 f 136

Importance and writing

Markham’s entries are richly detailed, and he does not shy away from recording his opinions on the behaviour of his crew and the places he visited. His account on the whaling vessel Arctic is probably best not read by those of a sensitive disposition, conjuring up as it does the sights and smells of decks covered with blood, fat and coal dust.

His journal as second in command of the Mediterranean fleet contains his first-hand account of the incident for which he is probably best known – the sinking of the flagship Victoria, following a collision with Markham’s ship Camperdown whilst undertaking manoeuvres off Tripoli.

These journals complement our existing holdings on Arctic research and exploration, from material relating to James Cook’s third voyage and attempts to find the Northwest Passage, and Sir John Franklin’s ill-fated expedition. The British Arctic Expedition of 1875-1876 was in several aspects a precursor of later Antarctic explorations, and Markham’s role leading the sledging team to achieve farthest north makes this a vital first-hand account.

Accompanying materials

The British Arctic Expedition journals (Add MS 89230/2) contain beautiful watercolours and ink sketches of arctic landscapes, wildlife, and fellow crew members.

YeloomYe Loom, Add MS 89230/2/1, f 36

CaninetroopYe canine troop performing a melodious concert, Add MS 89230/2/1, f 82

During the cataloguing process I was pleased to find letters enclosed in the journals, many written by figures in the history of arctic exploration and 19th century naval history, including William Grant (arctic photographer), Captain Antonius de Bruijne (of the Dutch schooner Willem Barents), and Benjamin Leigh Smith. Markham was also careful to collect keepsakes such as dinner menus and playbills for the performances put on by the ship’s company.

ThurspopsProgramme for the Thursday Pops, Add MS 89230/2/1, f 191

The Hudson’s Bay journal (Add MS 89230/4) was partly composed by Markham whilst he journeyed from York Factory to Winnipeg by canoe. Markham and his party were plagued by mosquitoes - “the buzz and the hum of my relentless persecutors – the mosquitoes – will they never tire? Will they ever leave me unmolested?” -  and these flying irritants have literally left their mark on the journal, with folios 115-151 spotted with pressed remains.

MosquitoesJournals with the ick factor, Add MS 89230/4

The catalogue can be found at Search Archives and Manuscripts under collection reference Add MS 89230. We will continue to post images on @BL_ModernMss, so be sure to follow us if you aren’t already.

Alex Hailey

Curator, Modern Archives and Manuscripts

28 November 2017

Sir Hans Sloane: Physician, Collector and Armchair Traveller

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The Anglo-Irish physician Sir Hans Sloane (1660-1753) rose in his profession to serve the royal family and became both President of the Royal Society and President of the Royal College of Physicians. Yet, most notably, Sloane was a collector of books, manuscripts and specimens ranging from medicine and natural history to religious tracts and beyond. This immense collection formed the foundation of the British Museum, from which the British Library and the Natural History Museum were later born. An illustrious man of science notwithstanding, these three institutions of knowledge and learning are his greatest legacy.

Sloane’s collection is vast. It contains at least 45,000 printed items, which the British Library’s Sloane Printed Books Catalogue has been meticulously cataloguing in a dedicated online open access database. The physician did not limit his remit to his field, but stretched well beyond it, reflecting the breadth of his interests. Sloane was a keen traveller – albeit largely of the armchair variety.

Having spent a formative educational period in France which also served to polish his command of the language, in 1687 Sloane secured the lucrative opportunity to serve as the personal physician to the newly appointed governor of Jamaica, the 2nd Duke of Albemarle. The two years spent in Jamaica, along with the period spent in France, were the extent of the Sloane’s travels abroad. Yet these limited experiences would nonetheless spark an insatiable interest in travel and the wider world that was expressed in his vast collection.

Figure 1
Some Observations made upon the Molucco Nutts, imported from the Indies, 546.g.18.(1.)

In both diversity of language and topic, Sloane’s Printed Books Collection is a treasure trove of literature on the far reaches of the world. They include medical literature on herbs from distant lands, including a work on ‘Molucco Nuts’ [546.g.18.(1.)] from the East Indies ‘shewing their admirable virtues in curing the Collick‘ and a work on ‘Brazilian Root’ [778.e.41.(12.)] from South America that possesses ‘wonderful virtue against vomiting and loosness’.

Figure2
Some Observations made upon the Brasillian Root, called Ipepocoanha: imported from the Indies, 778.e.41.(12.)

Figure 3
A Full and True Relation of the great and wonderful Revolution that hapned lately in the Kingdom of Siam, in the East-Indies, 582.e.39.

But such medically related works in his travel collection are in fact sparse in comparison to material on trade and beyond. Sloane’s collection contains numerous works on the East India Company and its forays, including a swashbuckling narrative detailing ‘A Full and True Relation of the great and wonderful Revolution that hapned lately in the Kingdom of Siam, in the East-Indies ... And of the expulsion of the Jesuits ... and Soldiers of the French Nation out of that Kingdom’ [582.e.39.]. A curiosity about religions abroad also emerges from Sloane’s catalogue, with a work on religious sects of India described as ‘A Display of two forraigne sects in the East Indies, vizt: the sect of the Banians, the ancient natives of India and the sect of the Persees the ancient inhabitants of Persia’ [696.c.11.(1.)] as well as a work on ‘the Present State of Christianity in China’ [489.g.14.(1.)].

Figure 4
A Display of two forraigne sects in the East Indies, vizt: the sect of the Banians, the ancient natives of India and the sect of the Persees the ancient inhabitants of Persia, 696.c.11.(1.)

Figure 5
A True Account of the Present State of Christianity in China, 489.g.14.(1.)

The colourful collage of Sloane’s interests was so diverse that many a reader’s taste is catered for. Perhaps you too might like to explore and see what you find to interest you in the Sloane Printed Books Catalogue – the database for the original collection, today held largely at the British Library.

Lubaaba Al-Azami
Sloane Printed Books Catalogue

05 October 2017

The quest for El Dorado

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Have you seen Werner Herzog's 1972 film Aguirre, Wrath of God?  Although historically wildly inaccurate, it has always been a hugely popular cult film. TIME magazine included it in its list of 'All-Time 100 Best Films'.  Herzog tells the story of the Spanish descent of the Amazon in 1560 – a quest for El Dorado.

The movie starts well, with the huge expedition winding its way down from Andean foothills to where they built their boats. But the later part of the film, with a handful of men and a horse on a raft, is wrong in every way – the expedition had no horses, hundreds of men, and two or three proper boats.

Spanish explorer

Spanish explorer from Edward Eggleston, The Household History of the United States and its people (London, 1889) BL flickr Noc

El Dorado was an elusive rich kingdom, now thought to be associated with the Omagua people on the main Amazon near the present Brazilian-Peruvian frontier, rather than in forests east of Quito.  In 1560 a great expedition led by Pedro de Ursúa built boats and embarked on the Amazon in northern Peru. But it found heavy rains, little food, and no wealth. The venture was hijacked by the embittered Basque arquebusier Lope de Aguirre.  Ursúa, his officers, and his beautiful mistress Inéz de Atienza were all murdered.  Aguirre wanted to descend the river as fast as possible, sail up the coast to Venezuela, and then march south to conquer Peru for his band of traitors.  The voyage down the Amazon became a bloodbath, with the paranoid psychopath Aguirre killing a third of the Spaniards and marooning hundreds of native Andean porters.  The story of the expedition was sensational, with El Dorado gold, Amazonian adventure, treachery, sex, class warfare and scores of murders.  But it added almost nothing to knowledge of Amazonian geography or indigenous peoples.

In 1570 Richard Hakluyt published Lopez Vaz's first-hand account of this disastrous descent of the Amazon by Pedro de Ursúa and his murderer Lope de Aguirre.  Hakluyt's English translation of this important source is the only known version, because the Spanish original is lost.

   Bollaert front coverNoc

 In 1861 the Hakluyt Society published The Expedition of Pedro de Ursua & Lope de Aguirre in Search of El Dorado and Omagua in 1560-1.  It is unfortunate that William Bollaert chose to translate from the Franciscan friar Pedro Simón, whose Noticias historiales de las conquistas de Tierra Firme (Cuenca, 1627) were entirely plagiarized without acknowledgement from earlier sources.  There were four eyewitness accounts by members of the ill-fated journey: Lopez Vaz, Captain Altamirano, Gonzalo de Zúñiga, and Francisco Vázquez,  Summaries were also written soon after the event by Diego de Aguilar y Córdoba (1578), Toribio de Ortigüera (1581), and Juan de Castellanos (1589).

  Pedro Simon Noc
Clements R. Markham wrote a stirring introduction to the Hakluyt Society edition - 
‘The blood-stained cruise of the “tyrant Aguirre”… is by far the most extraordinary adventure in search of El Dorado on record.  The dauntless hardihood of those old Spaniards and Germans, who, undismayed by the reverses and sufferings of numerous predecessors, continued to force their way for hundreds of miles into the forest covered wilds, is sufficiently astonishing; but in this cruise of Aguirre all that is wildest, most romantic, most desperate, most appalling in the annals of Spanish enterprise seems to culminate in one wild orgie of madness and blood’.

John Hemming
Hakluyt Society

Margaret Makepeace
Lead Curator, East India Company Records

Further reading:
Richard Hakluyt, The Principall navigations, voiages and discoveries of the English nation (London, 1589) volume 8.
The Expedition of Pedro de Ursua & Lope de Aguirre in Search of El Dorado and Omagua in 1560-1, (from Pedro Simón, Sixth Historical Notice of the Conquest of Tierra Firme), translated by William Bollaert with an introduction by Clements R. Markham, Hakluyt Society, 1 ser., 28, 1861.

 

29 August 2017

Philip Allwood and the Cuban Slave Trade

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Tucked away in the manuscript collections of the British Library is a Report on the Cuban Slave Trade written in 1787 by Philip Allwood, a British merchant. This document looks at the possibilities for trading slaves in Cuba, a new market then seen as having great potential as British Abolition loomed on the horizon.

Plan of city and harbour of Havana
Plan of city and harbour of Havana 1739

Philip Allwood started his mercantile career with the Boston merchants Fitch, Poole & Co of Boston and Jamaica, a firm engaged in general provisioning and the inter-island colonial slave trade. He moved to Jamaica where he became a partner with Henry Ludlow in Ludlow & Allwood. They were 'prize agents' and therefore had much to do with shipping, some of it engaged in the contraband trade to Spanish America and other parts of the West Indies. Allwood was closely linked to Eliphalet Fitch who was a major figure in Jamaica and associate of the slave factor and plantation owner Thomas Hibbert. 

Kingston Harbour Street and King's Street
Kingston: Harbour Street and King's Street – from James Hakewill's A Picturesque Tour in the Island of Jamaica (1825)

Allwood's connections with Spanish America would no doubt have included some involvement in the Jamaica/Mexico/Cadiz bullion trade possibly through Fitch and the Gordons who shipped specie from the island of Jamaica under contract with the London merchant bankers, Barings and Hope & Co of Amsterdam. Gordon & Murphy of Jamaica were major players in the mercantile world and much has been written about them. But it was Allwood's partnership with Baker & Dawson, major Liverpool slave traders who won the contract to supply Cuba with slaves, which should interest historians wanting to explore these networks more closely.

Ken Cozens and Derek Morris
Independent scholars

Further reading:
Philip Allwood, 'Report on the Spanish Slave Trade', November 1787, Add MS 34427, f.168. 
Adrian Pearce, British Trade with Spanish America, 1763–1808 (2007)
J. H. Parry, ‘Eliphalet Fitch: A Yankee trader in Jamaica during the War of Independence’, History, New Series, 40, no. 138/139 (1955): 84–98.

04 May 2017

The Turings of India

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Mathematician and computer scientist Alan Turing had many family connections to India.  His father Julius Mathison Turing belonged to the Indian Civil Service and his mother Ethel was daughter of Edward Waller Stoney, chief engineer of the Madras Railway Company.  Back in the 1790s, the physical appearance of one of the Turings born in Madras prompted the East India Company to introduce a regulation blocking the employment of men with Indian mothers.

  Civil servant c13441-10

'A civilian going out' from Twenty four plates illustrative of Hindoo and European manners in Bengal (1781.b.18 plate 23) Images Online  Noc

The Turings were a Scottish family whose members had served the East India Company since 1729 when Robert Turing was appointed as a surgeon in Madras.  Robert’s sister Helen married a cousin Henry Turing who was a peruke-maker in St Martin-in the Fields London.  Helen and Henry’s sons John and William joined the Company as Madras civil servants in the 1760s. Both rose steadily through the ranks from writer to senior merchant.

William Turing had a son John William, born on 20 May 1774 and baptised at Chingleput on 24 January 1776, ‘mother unknown’.  However the mother’s identity is revealed in William’s will, made when he was dying at Nellore in November 1782.  William wrote that he had so many bad debts that it was impossible to say how his estate would turn out, but he left 2,000 pagodas each to his ‘natural son’ John William, his ‘girl Nancy’, and the child she was carrying.  The will was proved on 17 January 1783 and the accounts show that the bequests were paid to John William and his Indian mother Nancy. 

  Turing William will
IOR/L/AG/34/29/186 p. 47 Will of William Turing 1782 Noc

Nancy gave birth to William's daughter on 13 May 1783.  The baby was baptised Margaretha at Chingleput on 12 June (again 'mother unknown'), and buried at Pulicat on 17 June 1783.

It appears that John William Turing was in London by 1791.  The East India Company's Committee of Shipping reported on 19 April 1791 that a John Turing who had been appointed as a military officer cadet for Madras appeared to be ‘a Native of India’.  The Court of Directors called in the young man so they could inspect him. After he withdrew, the directors resolved unanimously that the sons of native Indians would henceforward not be appointed by the Court to employment in the Company's civil, military, or marine services.  John Turing’s cadetship was rescinded.

Turing exclusion IOR B 113 p.17

IOR/B/113 p.17 Court Minutes 19 April 1791 Noc

During the following years, the Company gradually extended the categories for exclusion.  In 1795 Anglo-Indians were disqualified from service in the Company’s Armies except as bandsmen and farriers. On 19 February 1800 the Committee of Shipping reported on the case of Hercules Ross who was presented to be 3rd mate of the Hugh Inglis.  Ross came from Jamaica and the Court decided that the previous regulations should be applied to persons born in the West Indies 'whose Complexion evidently shows that their Parents are not severally Natives of Great Britain or Ireland'. 

It is unclear what happened to John Turing after he was deprived of his chance to be a Company military officer.  On 20 April 1791 the Court of Directors granted Alexander Clark permission to take a native named John Turing to Bengal on the ship Dublin, at no cost to the Company.  Does anyone know his subsequent story?

Margaret Makepeace
Lead Curator, East India Company Records

Further reading:
IOR/N/2/11 pp.25-26 Baptism of John William Turing at Chingleput 24 January 1776.
IOR/L/AG/34/29/186 pp. 2-23, 47 Will and estate papers for William Turing.
IOR/N/2/11 pp.39-40 Baptism of Margaretha Turing at Chingleput 12 June 1783.
IOR/N/2/11 pp.817-818 Burial of Margaretha Turing at Pulicat 17 June 1783.
(The above documents are available online through findmypast).
IOR/B/113 p.17 Court Minutes 19 April 1791 for John Turing’s exclusion.
IOR/B/130 pp.997-998 Court Minutes 19 February 1800 for Hercules Ross’s exclusion.

 

31 January 2017

Stamps and Gender Studies: Female royalty on Hawaiian definitive Postage Stamps, 1864-1893

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Postage stamps are an important resource for gender studies.  Hawaiian stamps issued between 1864 and 1893 are an excellent example.  Hawaii was originally an independent nation with its own monarchy, parliament, anthem and flag.  Several of the nation’s postage stamps depict the last senior female members of the Hawaiian Royal Family; all strong, compassionate, talented women with a deep love for their kingdom and people.

Princess Victoria KamamauluBritish Library, Philatelic collections: UPU Collection: Hawaii 1893 Provisional Government Overprinted Issues Noc

Although Princess Victoria Kamamalu’s (1838-1866) brother the King prevented her marriage for political reasons, Victoria was far from a pawn in male power politics of the time.  Remaining a spinster she resisted her brother’s attempts to marry her off to more amenable suitors, even causing the King significant embarrassment when implicated in a scandal with a married Englishman. An accomplished pianist and singer she performed in the Kawaiaiha’o Church Choir despite criticisms that her royal rank rendered such activities inappropriate. In 1863 she also established the Kaahumanu Society to assist small pox sufferers, the sick and elderly.

 

Princess LikelikeBritish Library, Philatelic collections: UPU Collection: Hawaii 1893 Provisional Government Overprinted Issues Noc

Princess Likelike (1851-1887) married Archibald Scott Cleghorn, a Scottish resident. Tiring of his controlling behaviour she abandoned him to become the Governor of Big Island between 1879 and 1880, refusing his repeated requests to return home. Involved in extensive charity work, Likelike also had a musical bent writing iconic Hawaiian songs including Ainahau.

 

Queen KapiolaniBritish Library, Philatelic collections: UPU Collection: Hawaii 1893 Provisional Government Overprinted Issues Noc

Queen Kapilolani (1834-1899) established the Kapiolani maternity home and participated in the 1887 state visit to Britain to attend Queen Victoria’s 50th Jubilee Celebrations. Throughout the visit Kapiolani insisted on speaking Hawaiian despite being proficient in English.

 

Queen Emma Kaleleonalani British Library, Philatelic collections: UPU Collection: Hawaii 1893 Provisional Government Overprinted Issues Noc

Queen Emma Kaleleonalani (1836-1885) was a renowned equestrian who expanded the Royal Palace Library. She established the Queen’s Hospital in 1859 and St Andrew’s Priory School for girls in 1867. A devout Anglican she was a central figure in establishing the Church of Hawaii and St Andrew’s Cathedral. 

 

Queen LiliuokalaniBritish Library, Philatelic collections: UPU Collection: Hawaii 1893 Provisional Government Overprinted Issues Noc

Queen Liluokalani (1838-1917) assisted in founding Queen’s Hospital and the Kaahumanu Society for the relief of the elderly and sick in 1864. In 1909 she also established the Liliuokalani Trust for the welfare of orphaned Hawaiian Children. She wrote Hawaii’s most iconic song Aloha ‘oe and one of Hawaii’s national anthems, acted as regent during her brother’s world tour in 1881, and also participated in the 1887 State visit to Britain. In 1891 she was elected head of state on her brother’s death, ruling until 1893 when she was imprisoned and forced to abdicate following an American backed coup bringing the Hawaiian Monarchy to a tragic end. Prior to her death in 1917 Liliuokalani continually sought support to regain her throne, and also published her memoirs Hawaii’s Story by Hawaii’s Queen in 1898.


Richard Scott Morel
Curator, Philatelic Collections

Further reading:
British Library, Philatelic collections: UPU Collection: Hawaii 1893 Provisional Government Overprinted Issues
Liliuokalani, Hawaii’s Story by Hawaii’s Queen (Boston, 1898)
Paul Bailey, Those Kings and Queens of Old Hawaii, (LA, 1975)
Ralph S. Kuykendall, The Hawaiian Kingdom (3 volumes, Honolulu, 1947-1967)

27 January 2017

The East India Company and Nootka Sound

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Viewers of the BBC TV series Taboo have heard about Nootka Sound and the machinations of the East India Company to acquire land there owned by James Keziah Delaney. Taboo is fictional, but Nootka is a real place and the East India Company had indeed been interested in it in the late 18th century.

Nootka is situated on the west coast of Vancouver Island in the province of British Columbia, Canada.  The Sound is one of many inlets along the Pacific coast of the island.

 Vancouver Island

 From Handbook to Vancouver Island and British Columbia (London, 1862) Noc

Captain James Cook’s third voyage (1776-1780) had shown that there was potential for a maritime fur trade between North West America and China.  As China lay within the area of the East India Company’s trading monopoly, it was likely that British merchants would try to circumvent this restriction by entering foreign employment. To avoid losing out, the Company had to enter the fur trade itself or license British traders to operate at Canton in China.  Experimental voyages were sent out from England, India, and Macao. One of these was the result of a proposal sent to the East India Company in 1785 by Richard Cadman Etches, a London merchant. Etches headed a syndicate consisting of merchants and gentlemen, and one woman - Mary Camilla Brook, tea dealer of London.

 

Nootka

From James Bryce, A Cyclopædia of Geography (London, 1862) BL flickr Noc


In May 1785 Etches met with the Directors who sat on the Company's Committee of Correspondence. He proposed sending the ships King George and Queen Charlotte to the North West Coast of America where small trading posts would be established to purchase furs and other goods to sell in Japan and China. The Committee agreed that it was safe for the Company’s interests to grant a licence to the two ships to trade within the limits of its charter. However strict conditions were laid down, with large financial penalties if broken:

• The ships were to go to America via Cape Horn or the Straits of Magellan and then on to Japan or other places northward to sell furs and other goods.
• The ships were not to go southward or westward of Canton or westward of New Holland (Australia).
• No European goods were to be supplied to Canton.
• Money received for furs and other goods was to be paid into the Company treasury at Canton in return for bills of exchange.
• Unsold furs were to be offered to the Company's supercargoes at Canton, possibly for sale in India.
• If Etches’ ships were sound, they were to be used to carry a cargo of tea and other Chinese goods to London.  They needed to be free of any smell which might damage the tea. If unsuitable, the ships could go back to North West America and load goods for Europe.
•  If the traders upset the native peoples within the Company's monopoly limits, they were to make reparation so that Company interests were not damaged.

There are some journals for Etches’ ships in the East India Company archives as well as many papers about the various Nootka Sound expeditions, including ‘Additions to Capt. Cook's Vocabulary of the Nootka Sound Language’.  Plenty to satisfy the curiosity of anyone wanting to delve into the themes of Taboo!

Margaret Makepeace
Lead Curator, East India Company Records

Further reading:
Barry M Gough, Distant Dominion (University of British Columbia, 1980).
IOR/H/800 Papers concerning a Voyage to Nootka Sound.
IORL/MAR/B/404-O Journal of the voyage of the Prince of Wales to North West America and China 1786-1788.
IOR/L/MAR/B/477A Journal of the voyage of the Queen Charlotte from China to England 1788.
IOR/L/MAR/B/402G Journal of the voyage of the King George from China to England 1788.
IOR/D/120 Committee of Correspondence 6 May 1785.

IOR/D - the papers of the Committee of Correspondence 1700-1858 - now accessible as a digital resource:
East India Company, Module 1: Trade, Governance and Empire, 1600-1947 is available online from Adam Matthew and there is access in our Reading Rooms in London and Yorkshire.

 

06 September 2016

Female Felons in the 18th Century

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Calendars of prisoners are ephemeral broadsides that tell us something about individual convicts within the criminal justice system, and we’ve just acquired two fascinating examples from the 18th century.  Essentially these calendars are lists of prisoners who were awaiting regional trials, with a description of the charges against them.  Some were also printed after the trial, recording the sentences given.  The earliest calendars are manuscript records in a mix of Latin and English.  They were printed from the 1730s onwards in English to satisfy local public interest, prevent clandestine imprisonments and forewarn judges of the workload awaiting them at each trial. They continued to be printed until the 1970s.

The first calendar lists prisoners held at Wakefield House of Correction, which was essentially a workhouse.  At the time of printing, these prisoners were awaiting trial at the quarterly sessions (court for petty crimes) in January 1779.  Amongst the men charged with various thefts, assaults, desertions and, memorably, the sale of unstamped almanacs in the case of one Thomas Mosley, the few female convicts stand out.

 
IMG_5899
Hannah Pagett had a one month sentence for “false reeling”.  She produced yarn with a deficient number of threads.  Mary Parker was committed in July 1778.   She served a one year sentence as a “lewd woman, having had three bastard children”.  Ann Ainley was accused of being “an idle and disorderly woman”.  These roughly defined offences were common charges against women in the 18th century.  At least the names of these women have survived; there are two on the list who are, sadly, identified only as “an unknown woman”.  One “cannot give any account of herself” and the other is accused of being “a vagrant, and an idiot”.  It is possible that up to two thirds of prisoners in houses of correction like the one at Wakefield were female.  Beating hemp was the usual form of hard labour.  Whippings and beatings were also commonplace, particularly for those convicted of vagrancy, lewd conduct and night walking (prostitution). 

The second calendar records prisoners in the Castle of York who were trialled at the assizes (court for more serious crimes) in March 1736.  One entry in particular caught my eye.  It says “Walker Margaret, Sutton Katharin, otherwise Mason Katharin, to be transported for seven years”.  The Transportation Act, passed in 1717, established a seven year convict bond service and penal transportation to North America as punishment for minor crimes.  Approximately 50,000 convicts (men, women and children) were transported to North America, an influx that was only plugged by the American Revolution beginning in 1765.  From then on, convicts were transported to Australia.

IMG_5896

The Atlantic crossing was perilous; the convicts endured cramped conditions on merchant ships, often in chains.  As on slave ships disease was rife.  If they survived the crossing, and many didn’t, they were forced into hard labour on the tobacco fields.  After serving their sentence some returned to England but many established a new life for themselves in the vast anonymity of North America.  Did Margaret Walker and Katharin Sutton stay in, or even reach, America?  As with the fate of all these women, we’ll probably never know.

These new items will join the three other 18th century calendars of prisoners in the British Library.  We acquire ephemera like these to represent regional printing, the historical experience of the lower and criminal classes, and the diversity of English culture as a whole. 

Maddy Smith
Curator, Printed Heritage Collections

Further reading:
18th century crime and punishment