NMB Free Lecture: Britain’s Convicts In Bermuda

April 24, 2024 | 1 Comment

The National Museum of Bermuda [NMB] will present a free virtual lecture on May 9, 2024, featuring Dr. Anna McKay, discussing Britain’s convicts in Bermuda from 1824 to 1863.

A spokesperson said, “The National Museum of Bermuda [NMB] is continuing its free Bermuda and the Atlantic World lecture series with a virtual lecture on May 9, 2024 at 5:30pm AT via Zoom.

“‘Faint and Weary by Working in the Burning Sun’: Britain’s Convicts in Bermuda [1824-1863] will be presented by Dr Anna McKay, Leverhulme Trust Early Career Fellow, University of Liverpool.

“On 5 January 1824 the HMS Antelope set sail from Spithead, near Portsmouth in Hampshire, carrying an unusual cargo: convicts. Three hundred men, selected for their youth and strength, were sent 3,000 miles from England to Bermuda, alleviating some of the overcrowding in prisons across England and marking the beginning of a forty-year convict establishment in Bermuda. Far from home, they were to provide the labour for one of the largest public works projects on the Island, serving the needs of the Empire by contributing to building works at the Royal Naval Dockyard.

NMB Atlantic World Lecture Series Dr. Anna McKay Bermuda April 2024

“Alongside enslaved and free workers, they quarried and built various structures crucial for the Empire, enduring harsh conditions under military supervision. Labouring under ‘the burning sun’, they died in the thousands. While some returned to England, many that survived were sent on to the Australian colonies, and never returned home. In this free lecture, Dr. McKay will explore the lives and experiences of the convicts sent to Bermuda, following their journeys across the British Empire and their impact on the Island. To register, visit: www.nmb.bm/lecture.”

NMB Executive Director Elena Strong shared, “Our Bermuda and the Atlantic World free lecture series is one of many ways that the National Museum is providing opportunities to learn about Bermuda’s past. It explores the links and the forces throughout the Atlantic World that helped shape Bermuda as we know it today.”

The spokesperson said, “Previous lectures in the series include: “The Early Atlantic Age [1250-1609]: Why and how did we get here?” and “Building a Maritime Community & Maritime State: Early Settlement & Economic Growth [1609-1800]”, both presented by Dr. Clarence Maxwell; “Pushing the Boundaries of Freedom presented by Dr. Kristy Warren; “Reckoning with the Slave Ship Enterprise in Bermuda, 1835” presented by Dr. Neil Kennedy; “Societal Changes in Post-Emancipation Bermuda and the ‘Friendly Society’ Effects” by Dr. Michael Bradshaw; and “From Hamilton to Charleston: A History of Bermuda Stone in Charleston, South Carolina” by Justin Schwebler. You can watch all previous lectures at: www.nmb.bm/lecture.

“NMB’s Bermuda and the Atlantic World lecture series and education programmes are supported by The Future of History Campaign. Learn more: www.nmb.bm/campaign.

Dr Anna McKay Bermuda April 2024

About the lecturer:

“Dr. Anna McKay researches prisoners across the British Empire, with a particular focus on floating prisons known as hulks. Her PhD compared the detainment of convicts
and prisoners of war on board hulks in Britain and Bermuda, and was awarded by the
University of Leicester in 2020 in association with the National Maritime Museum, Greenwich.

“In 2022, she was awarded the Alexander Prize by the Royal Historical Society for her article on the use and abuse of convict corpses. Anna’s work investigates a wealth of official reports, petitions, diaries and newspaper accounts. Her recent posts include a visiting fellowship at Yale University’s Beinecke Library, the American Revolution Institute, Washington D.C., and the British Library Eccles Centre.

“She has undertaken archival research in the UK, Australia, Bermuda, Canada and the Caribbean, and conducted site visits to dockyards, former prisoner of war depots and penal colony sites across the world.”

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  1. Jonathan Land Evans says:

    Those interested in the convicts sent to Bermuda might also like to have a look at my paper ‘Britannia’s Combustible Materials’ (parts of which touch on or are specifically about the convicts, and in particular some of the disturbances that attended their time here); it’s in my book ‘Collected Essays on Bermuda’s History’, which is available via Lulu.com (where they can get a 10% discount until the end of Friday using discount code EARTHDAY10 at check-out).

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