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Palgrave Macmillan

Unfree Workers

Insubordination and Resistance in Convict Australia, 1788-1860

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  • © 2022


  • Fills an important gap in research on unfree labor, providing a systematic examination of worker resistance
  • Uses “big data” to map out the contours of resistance, breaking new ground by powerfully visualizing the scale
  • Includes detailed case studies and datasets painstakingly built up through years of research

Part of the book series: Palgrave Studies in Economic History (PEHS)

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About this book

This book examines how convicts played a key role in the development of capitalism in Australia and how their active resistance shaped both workplace relations and institutions. It highlights the contribution of convicts to worker mobilization and political descent, forcing a rethink of Australia’s foundational story. It is a book that will appeal to an international audience, as well as the many hundreds of thousands of Australians who can trace descent from convicts. It will enable the latter to make sense of the experience of their ancestors, equipping them with the necessary tools to understand convict and court records. It will also provide a valuable undergraduate and postgraduate teaching tool and reference for those studying unfree labour and worker history, social history, colonization and global migration in a digital age.

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Table of contents (11 chapters)

  1. Incarceration—Convicts, Unfree Labour and Colonial Capitalism

  2. Excarceration—Patterns of Resistance and Collective Action

Authors and Affiliations

  • School of Humanities, Arts and Social Science, University of New England, Armidale, Australia

    Hamish Maxwell-Stewart

  • School of Management, Business School, UNSW Sydney, Sydney, Australia

    Michael Quinlan

About the authors

Hamish Maxwell-Stewart is a professor of heritage and digital history at the University of New England, Australia. He has researched and published extensively on the history of convict transportation including its connections with slavery and other unfree labour systems.

Michael Quinlan is emeritus professor of industrial relations at UNSW, Australia, as well as holding posts at the University of Tasmania, Australia, and Middlesex University, UK. He has researched and published extensively on the history and regulation of work (including occupational health and safety) and worker organisation.

Bibliographic Information

  • Book Title: Unfree Workers

  • Book Subtitle: Insubordination and Resistance in Convict Australia, 1788-1860

  • Authors: Hamish Maxwell-Stewart, Michael Quinlan

  • Series Title: Palgrave Studies in Economic History

  • DOI:

  • Publisher: Palgrave Macmillan Singapore

  • eBook Packages: Economics and Finance, Economics and Finance (R0)

  • Copyright Information: The Editor(s) (if applicable) and The Author(s), under exclusive license to Springer Nature Singapore Pte Ltd. 2022

  • Hardcover ISBN: 978-981-16-7557-7Published: 13 January 2022

  • Softcover ISBN: 978-981-16-7560-7Published: 14 January 2023

  • eBook ISBN: 978-981-16-7558-4Published: 12 January 2022

  • Series ISSN: 2662-6497

  • Series E-ISSN: 2662-6500

  • Edition Number: 1

  • Number of Pages: XVI, 349

  • Number of Illustrations: 19 b/w illustrations, 4 illustrations in colour

  • Topics: Economic History, Labor Economics, Australasian History

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