Soul of the Beast takes place in 1886 during the time of the British Empire. At the time, many Irishmen were convicted of the same felony. Their crime? Stealing food to feed their starving families. For punishment, they were sent to the penal colony in Australia. Below are excerpts from an online article on the subject by Independent Australia. You can read the article by clicking on the link.
In the early [1800's], …Australia became the first [British] colony to build a society [based] on the labour of convicted felons…Between 1787 and 1852, more than 150,000 convicts were transported to eastern Australia … around 50,000 prisoners being of Irish origin… minor thefts [like stealing food to survive were the predominant reasons for the Irish convictions]…
Many [Irish] convicts were bewildered by the first days of the voyage to Australia… few had travelled in a ship. Most had not [made a] journey of even 200 miles … by sentence of the courts, they [took] one of the longest voyages any traveller could make …[many convicts died during the migration southwards.]
This convict class was singled out for [unusually hard punishments] by the Australian authorities. … Irish formed the country’s first white minority. The Irish convicts’ first and only attempt at rebellion, the 1804 uprising at Castle Hill, was ruthlessly put down. [Many] of its leaders [were] hanged … many [were whipped to death and others died in chains.]
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