updated 23 September, 2021
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By Dan Byrnes (Australia)
September 2021: Appearance near this website of a new four-page article - by Peter Dickson - On convict contractor John Stewart and salt production (near Portsea/Portsmouth), 1772, in Southern England. See John Stewart at Portsea: Convicts & Salterns, by Peter Dickson ...
As edited by Dan Byrnes of this website.
The history websites on this domain now have a companion website on a new domain, at Merchant Networks Project, produced by Dan Byrnes and Ken Cozens (of London).
This website (it is hoped) will become a major exercise in economic and maritime history, with some attention to Sydney, Australia.
This website on The Blackheath Connection works on many assumptions about "Convict London" 1786-1788 which are popular today in Australian history writing but may be incorrect/misleading. The main assumption Australians use is that the men who owned the ships used in convict transportation did not know of each other - but this book argues that they would have known of each other ... and it presents new facts!
Hence it also offers a different picture of the relevant maritime history (British, Australian, Britain-China and Britain-India too). After much thought on the matter in 2021- and I have said already said that there are not (unfortunately) enough people today interested in these people of the past - who are not in fact so many - I’d have to say now that - like too many historians - the history-promoters of the Enderby family (today) have assumed (incorrectly by 2021) that only the British whaler Sam Enderby Snr (died 1797) was active at Blackheath, London.
Whereas this website assumes that there were more than one name at Blackheath active as convict contractor(s), namely: Duncan Campbell (the hulks overseer and relative of William Bligh a later naval governor of New South Wales), alderman G.M. Macaulay, active with the First Fleet and connected with his friend, the anti-Spanish fomenter of the Nootka Crisis, alderman William Curtis, also MP for City of London; whaling investor John St Barbe (connected with William Raven at Sydney and sealing at Dusky Bay, NZ); and Thomas King of the slavers Camden, Calvert and King, who were instrumental with the Second and Third fleets of convict ships bound for Botany Bay. And what I call, "Civic London", as treated in The Blackheath Connection.
So, much rests on Blackheath London, and who might have lived there, or not, at the level of assumptions, not mentions of facts. What price, those in Australia who have failed to visit all of Convict London? (See also the website The Merchant Networks Project and the book new by 2021-2022, Merchant Networks)
And so, those in the past who didn't believe (or assume) that residents of Blackheath (London) were instrumental in convict transportation to Sydney have included: Wilfred Oldham (1933 but unfortunately not read, so his facts versus his mistakes were never explored), Bateson (1959), Dallas (1960s), Blainey (1960s), Frost (1990s), Atkinson (1990s-2000s). And Aborigines in today's Australia who blame Cook but ignore Nepean in Government and sundry names of Blackheath. There was also resident at Hither Green (just near Blackheath today in London) a lawyer-merchant who didn’t surface as a convict contractor till 1810 or after; the notable John William Buckle of the firm Buckle, Buckle, Bagster and Buchanan.
It is finally, simple. Convicts to Australia or not, this is what comes of ignoring just one suburb of London in 1786 – Blackheath. - Dan Byrnes (2021)
October 2005: Major new citation of The Blackheath Connection: In Tom Keneally, The Commonwealth of Thieves: The Sydney Experiment. Milson's Point, NSW, Random House, 2005. (Now hear this, Australian film industry, why not make a movie from this book as soon as possible?? Hmmm?? – Dan Byrnes!)
Prepare to learn much about the
sweep of events which
from 1786 linked a long-lost Australia to the rest
The how and why of a global network of shipping, the world-wide web of its day...
Blackheath Connection: a new
view of the "founding" of European-Australia as a British
convict colony - a review of the history of the transportation of
British convicts 1717-1810 to North America, then to Australia...
The Blackheath Connection... a discovery made in London in 1989 by Dan Byrnes and Neil Rhind
For more information on present-day Blackheath in London, visit a site managed by the noted local historian there, Neil Rhind: http://www.blackheath.org
May 2003: Note
from the author:
The Blackheath Connection website has now been on the Internet since March 2000. Since then, it has attracted a good deal of attention (and e-mail) from Britain and Scotland, New Zealand, the Caribbean and the US eastern seaboard, but much less so from Australians.
It needs to be asked, why is this? Is it because Australians still have cultural sensitivities about convict transportation that they do not wish to discuss?
By now (mid-2003), it certainly seems so, as a matter of a self-imposed truncation of cultural curiosities/historical amnesia that is becoming internationally conspicuous.
For example, e-mail from the UK has been far more penetrating about England sending convicts to "Botany Bay", than e-mail from Australians about Australian colonies receiving convicts.
This website has
had e-mail from some academic historians in the US/UK, and from many
family history-minded people around the world, but from few, if any,
historians in Australia, or their students, including high school
students or univerity undergraduates, though some family historians in Australia have e-mailed.
What is noticeable is that international e-mailers find the information on the website to be accurate and reliable, whereas Australians seem to be avoiding the website's information and the directions the information seeks out.
That is, people overseas find few cultural sensitivities with the material, Australians seem to be finding "cultural reasons" to avoid the material. (At last count, only one or two universities in Australian have staff who have linked to The Blackheath Connection.)
It seems then, that Australians prefer the old stories on convict transportation that they are used to, not new information which provokes fresh thinking on the topic. So the questions arise... Does this website cut too close to the bone? And if so, how and why?
Update: November 2005: And after some thought, and due to various e-mail, by early November 2005, the above notice of complaint, placed during mid-2003, can be rescinded, or, withdrawn. It now appears that Australians have begun to adjust to some new information, new ideas. The complaint then by November 2005 can now be regarded as "old technology". And the cultural resistance complained of, regarded as “old historiography”.
- Dan Byrnes
The Blackheath Connection aims to retell the earlier stories of how Australia - the continent - was introduced to the rest of the world... Revised or new material is presented on settlers/planters on Jamaica after the 1690s Scottish Darien Company debacle; the Boston Tea Party; Britain's handling of convicts from 1776; how London aldermen reacted as the First Fleet to Australia was being mounted. How London-based merchants avoided new opportunities in the Pacific region... new material on whaling and maritime history. And much else...
FEEDBACK: If you have any doubt about the usefulness to researchers of the material mounted on this website, please see the FEEDBACK FILE.
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Armidale NSW 2350, Australia. Phone: 61 (02) 6771 5243.
Note: Research for this project overall was supported in 1993 by a Writer's Project Grant from the Literature Board of the Australia Council for the Arts.
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