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Convict Tattoos


Marked Men and Women of Australia

"For a convict devoid of possessions, deprived of family, stripped of identity and sentenced to hard labour in an unfamiliar land, a tattoo provided a link with what had been lost."

Simon Barnard, author of the prize winning A-Z of Convicts in Van Dieman's Land, has meticulously combed through Australian convict records to reveal a rich pictorial history.

At least thirty-seven percent of male convicts and fifteen percent of female convicts were tattooed by the time they arrived in the penal colonies, quite possibly making these Australians the world’s most heavily tattooed English-speaking people of the nineteenth century.

Upon disembarking, each convict’s details, including their tattoos, were recorded, providing an extensive and unique physical account of Australia’s convict men and women.

Convict Tattoos: Marked Men and Women of Australia explores various aspects of tattooing - from the symbolism of tattoo motifs to inking methods, from their use as means of identification and control, to expressions of individualism and defiance - providing a fascinating glimpse of the lives of the people behind these records.

Simon Barnard
Published 2016
128 pages
ISBN 9781925240399

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