there were no more convicts assigned after July 1840.” (Coghlan 1918,

vol. 1, p. 184) 23

In order to estimate convict living standards in the 1830s, we reconstruct

their yearly consumption of food, clothing, and incidentals as reported in Coghlan

(1918, vol. 1: p. 182-183). We then price the assigned convict consumption basket

to generate an assigned convict’s annual expenditure and add extra income from

overtime work. Table 6A reports that the food rations were very generous,

certainly when compared with the “bare bone” basket in Table 3. However, our

findings do not support Meredith and Oxley’s more rosy narrative (2015: p. 109):

“The principal feature of the convict ration was the amount of meat it

contained: 1-1 1/2 lbs per day. With flour and vegetables this ration

supplied daily energy of between 3900 and 4900 calories. This was

definitely not the norm for the British working class at this time … It [also]

seems likely that accommodation, clothing and medical care were superior

to the average experienced by working people in the United Kingdom.”

We have already reported that free urban common labor in Australia had PPPadjusted

living standards a bit below those in London, and we report below that

assigned convicts had living standards only a bit more than half of that. Thus, we

cannot agree with the Meredith and Oxley assertion that assigned convict living

standards “were superior to the average experienced by working people in the United

Kingdom” although their rations were clearly better.

23 This statement refers to New South Wales, then including what became Victoria and Queensland.

However, Tasmania continued a modified system – called passholder – between 1840 and 1857.

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