Dr Katy Roscoe, Pearsall Fellow

Convict Labour in Britain's Imperial Dockyards

Katy was recently awarded her PhD in History at the University of Leicester, supervised by Professor Clare Anderson and Dr Katherine Foxhall. Her doctoral research explored the use of islands off the coast of Australia for the incarceration of Indigenous and European convicts. Sitting at the intersection of maritime, colonial and convict history, it demonstrates the essential role islands played in colonial governance and imperial expansion. She completed her doctoral research as part of Clare Anderson’s Carceral Archipelago project (European Research Council) on convict transportation globally.

The postdoctoral research project Katy will complete at the IHR looks at the role of convicts in building Britain’s imperial dockyards at Bermuda and Gibraltar. She is interested the use of coerced labour for imperial expansion, how convicts accrued skills in naval trades through their carceral journey and how convicts interacted with sailors and free-workers in dockyard spaces. This research challenges presumptions about skilled free labour as the driving force of globalisation, as well as presenting a counter-narrative to single-cell imprisonment as the ‘norm’ for convicts in the  nineteenth century.

Katherine works as a Research Assistant for The Bentham Project (UCL) and has taught at the University of Leicester. She was awarded a National Archives of Australia/Australian Historical Association Postgraduate Scholarship (2016) and the Australian Bicentennial Scholarship from the Menzies Centre of Australian Studies (2014).


C. Anderson, E. Henrich, S. Longair & K. Roscoe, ‘Empire and Its Aftermath in Four Post-Colonial Settings’ in J. Wilson et al. (eds),The Palgrave Handbook of Prison Tourism (Palgrave Macmillan, 2017).

K. Roscoe, ‘Too many kill’em. Too many make em’ill’: The Commission into Rottnest Prison as the context for Section 70’ in A. Curthoys & J. Lydon (eds), special issue Studies in Western Australian History, no. 31 (2016)

G. Curless, S. Hynd, T. Alanamu, & K. Roscoe, ‘Editors’ Introduction: Networks in Imperial History’, special issue of Journal of World History, vol. 27, issue 1 (2016).

C. Anderson, C. Crockett, C. De Vito, T. Miyamoto, K. Moss, K. Roscoe & M. Sakata, ‘Locating Penal Transportation: punishment, space and place’ in D. Moran and K. Morin, Historical Geographies of Prisons: Unlocking the Usable Carceral Past (Routledge, 2015).