A Comparative Study of French Transportation in Guyana and in New Caledonia, XIXth-XXth century

Abstract : The paper puts into comparative historical perspective the two main French penal colonies, Guyana (1852-1938) and New Caledonia (1863-1897). Each has contributed in its own distinct way to the long history of French transportation beginning in the XIXth century. New Caledonia embodied the rural utopia of the 1854 law on transportation. It was based on hope in a convict’s rehabilitation through access to land and farm work. New Caledonia’s experiment was short-lived, lasting only 34 years, and concerned around 30,000 convicts but had a major impact on the making of the local colonial society. On the other hand, penal transportation to Guyana which lasted more than 90 years and involved around 79 000 convicts played a central role in the repressive policies of the Second Empire and the Third Republic. It impacted Guyana itself through the massive building of camps and the heavy presence of convict workers and impoverished ex-convicts alongside other migrants and the local population. But most of the convicts sent to Guyana died or left the colony before or after the Second World War. In Guyana, transportation has left behind many material traces, but few descendants and the memory of the penal past is not fully embraced. In New Caledonia, however, the transportees and their descendants were numerous enough to mark the territory and New Caledonian society as the whole. The idea here is to reexamine French penal transportation’s history through its variations and its legacies in Guyana and New Caledonia.
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Conference papers
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Contributor : Isabelle Merle <>
Submitted on : Saturday, July 30, 2016 - 1:46:37 PM
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Isabelle Merle. A Comparative Study of French Transportation in Guyana and in New Caledonia, XIXth-XXth century. Colonial Incarceration in the 20th century: a comparative approach. On the 80th anniversary of the Tarrafal camp (Cape Verde), Institute for Contemporary History (IHC), Faculty of Social Sciences and Humanities, Universidade NOVA de Lisbon (FCSHNOVA), Jul 2016, Lisboa, Portugal. ⟨hal-01350521⟩



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