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‘Close and Merciful Watchfulness’

John Montagu's Convict System in the Mid-Nineteenth-Century Cape Colony

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Abstract:

During the 1840s the Colonial Secretary at the Cape, John Montagu, instituted a new system of convict labour in the colony. Though the success of this system in building roads and mountain passes has attracted attention, its reformatory and penal aspects have received insufficient consideration. Nor have historians examined the origins of these reforms within the context of Montagu's earlier experience of the Convict Probation System in Van Diemen's Land and against the background of British and imperial debates about the future of convict transportation in general. This article seeks to broaden the discussion about the origin and nature of the Cape's convict system and to explain why it was regarded as one of the most successful systems of convict control in the nineteenth-century British Empire.

Keywords: CAPE COLONY; CONVICT LABOUR; CONVICT PROBATION SYSTEM; JOHN MONTAGU; PENAL REFORM; TRANSPORTATION; VAN DIEMEN'S LAND

Document Type: Research Article

DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.2752/147800408X341668

Affiliations: Department of Historical Studies, University of Cape Town, Private Bag X3, Rondebosch 7701, South Africa;, Email: nigel.penn@uct.ac.za

Publication date: December 1, 2008

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