Bound for America:
The Transportation of British Convicts to the Colonies, 1718-1775

Praise and Reviews

 “What historians once treated as a kind of curiosity suddenly becomes a major chapter in the story of the peopling of North America . . . fascinating . . . [a] powerful account.”
- T.H. Breen, London Review of Books

“In this deeply researched and finely crafted book Roger Ekirch has illuminated the workings of an institution that played an important role on both sides of the Atlantic a penal practice that made possible the effective administration of the criminal law in England and that was responsible for bringing a significant proportion of the immigrants who arrived in the American colonies in the half century before the Revolution.”
- J. M. Beattie, Journal of Social History

“Transportation to Australia has been very fully studied in modern times; transportation to America has not. Professor Ekirch might have been forgiven for publishing a preliminary study, but this book, based upon an extremely wide range of source materials, is much more than that. It provides a comprehensive account of the system and its operation, principally so far as it operated for England and Wales. In the future any writing on the subject will start from his work. . . . Professor Ekirch tells the whole story with great skill, and contrives to make the harsh world of the eighteenth century real, though I doubt if it is ever possible to grasp how awful the past was. Although fully familiar with that genre of writing on the history of penal systems in which the evidence is less the dominant partner than the high theory, his writing does not belong to it; he is a historian's historian, essentially concerned to tell a story and ask some sensible questions. He has written a distinguished book.”
- A. W. Bryan Simpson, American Journal of Legal History

“An erudite, engaging, and well-written study . . . excellent scholarship, clear writing, good editing, and a genuine index make this volume one to read again.” 
- Louis A. Knafla, American Historical Review

“A rich source of new ideas and new associations for all who take an interest in the eighteenth century.”
- N.A.M. Rodger, Times Literary Supplement

“A major addition to the growing body of genuinely transatlantic scholarship.”
- David Thomas Konig, Virginia Magazine of History and Biography

“In this interesting and scholarly study of a prominent aspect of eighteenth-century penal policy, Dr. Ekirch throws new light on various aspects of British and colonial society and also dispels a few legends.” 
- Ian R. Christie, The Historian

“Ekirch's book is remarkable for both the field it covers and the methods used to treat an essential subject for both North America and Great Britain. The author has exhaustively employed existing records on both sides of the Atlantic His book deserves to have a very wide audience.
- Jeanne Chase, Annales. Histoire, Sciences Sociales

“Between 1718, when the British parliament passed the Transportation Act, and 1775 some 50,000 convicts were transported to the North American colonies. . . . one quarter of all British emigrants to colonial American during that period. Previously this involuntary movement was treated as a peripheral curiosity: convicts were, in the words of a 1766 description , “a special class of servants” . . . . One of the many virtues of Roger Ekirch’s book is to bring convict transportation into the mainstream. He has produced a lively, extremely wide-ranging and very readable book from which historians of eighteenth-century Britain and America will benefit enormously.”
- Pisu Giampaolo, Journal of European Economic History

“This study is, without question, important. In showing that a quarter of the British immigrants to America in the eighteenth century were convicts, that they faced years of unremitting misery, that their best hope was to return home despite the penalty of death, Ekirch leads historians to redraw their picture of life in early America in somewhat darker hues.”
- Donna J. Spindel, North Carolina Historical Review

“This is an important book, one that deserves to be read by historians not only of colonial American but also those concerned by convict Australia . . . . extensively researched, well-written and very tightly argued.”
- Richard Waterhouse, Australasian Journal of American Studies

“Ekirch’s book is a valuable contribution to the study of an important aspect of the administration of justice in England and the social and economic development of the North American colonies.”
- W.O. Henderson,  Vierteljahrschrift für Sozial- und Wirtschaftsgeschichte,

“An impressive study that will be of use not only to students of immigration to America but to those interested in crime.”
- James Horn, William and Mary Quarterly

“Should become essential reading for all students of colonial America . . . an excellent book which deserves the widest audience.”
- Times Higher Education Supplement

Bound for America is a successful study, thorough in its research, imaginative in its exploitation of seemingly intractable sources, sensitive to the trans-Atlantic dimensions of the topic, gracefully written, and sharply focused on the lives of transported convicts. It should stand as the definitive study for some time to come. Most important, by linking the story of convicts to the study of immigration and opportunity, major themes in early American history, Ekirch shows how the experience of that troubled and troublesome group can be integrated into a more comprehensive understanding of the colonial past.”
- Russell R. Menard, Business History Review

“[A] fascinating account of the convict trade to colonial America.”  - Richard S. Dunn, Journal of Southern History

“Ekirch's cautionary tale should be required reading for the hanging and whipping lobby of our own time.”
- Walter Minchinton, English Historical Review

“Ekirch's painstaking analysis becomes the reference work on his subject, correcting some misconceptions while providing new understanding of the convicts, their transportation, and their life in America.”
- Ian K. Steele, Journal of American History

“Prodigious research . . . Ekirch uses both his own research and the superb recent and voluminous literature on crime and society in eighteenth-century England to demolish some long-held stereotypes about convict transports.” 
- William Pencak, Pennsylvania History

“This work explores the legal and social issues surrounding Britain's policy of transporting criminals to colonial America. The author argues that this penal practice, which became formalized through the Transportation Act of 1718, addressed both the problem of increasing crime and Britain's concern about growing state power. The transportation solution was appealing because it removed convicts from British society without creating a large penal system that might enhance state power and ‘endanger traditional freedoms.’ Through records, writings, and diaries of the period, the author evaluates the typical transported convict, penal life in the colonies, and the impact of this penal solution on both British and colonial society.”
- Harvard Law Review

Bound for America offers detailed evidence on a broad range of questions surrounding the transportation of convict servants to America in the eighteenth century.  It synthesizes scholarship and brings important new evidence to light on a broad range of topics, from the fairness of English criminal law, to the political philosophy underlying criminal law reform, to the lives of convicts laboring under the sun in Virginia and Maryland.  Ekirch adds significantly to our understanding of the impact of the law on individuals.  His greatest accomplishment may not be in the questions he answers, but in his demonstration of how men and women long since dead and the world they inhabited can be make to live and breathe once again.” 
- Alfred L. Brophy, Cornell International Law Journal

“Ekirch's study is an admirable work of scholarship. It provides a fine book-length examination of the transportation of convicts to America. Sound in scholarship and judgment, it well serves the needs of an academic audience. He writes clearly and pleasingly. Ekirch and his publisher are to be congratulated on producing an important and attractive book.”
- James A. Rawley, Albion

“The most interesting aspect of Ekirch's study of convicts in colonial society is their contribution to crime. The fear that convict transportation would cause a colonial crime wave appears misplaced. Ekirch shows that convicts committed proportionally fewer property crimes than other colonists and explains it through relative differences in the opportunity for theft. . . . Bound for America provides the first comprehensive study in over forty years of post-1718 British convict transportation to America and does so in an entertaining and easy-to-read manner. It should be considered a definitive source.”
- Farley Grubb,
Journal of Economic History

“The first study of the transportation of British convicts to America since the publication in 1947 of Abbott Emerson Smith’s Colonists in Bondage, Ekirch’s is destined to become the standard work.” 
- Stephen Innes, Maryland Historical Magazine