Dr Katherine Roscoe

Lecturer in Criminology Sociology, Social Policy and Criminology


Personal Statement

I am a historical criminologist with research interests centred on global mobilities, unfree labour and racial inequalities, with a particular focus on mid-nineteenth century crime and punishment in Britain and its former empire (Australia, Bermuda and Gibraltar).

My Leverhulme Trust project "How Convicts Connected the World: Unfree Labour on British & Imperial Dockyards" examines the crucial role of convict labour in building the maritime infrastructure that connected Britain to its empire in the age of steam power. This project places carceral labour at the centre of globalisation, industrialisation and technological modernisation, linking these historic structures to our continuing reliance on unfree labour within the global supply chain. It uses digital methods to map the 'life geographies' of men transported from Britain and Ireland to Bermuda, Gibraltar and Australia.

I joined the department in October 2018 as an ESRC Postdoctoral Fellow to undertake my research project ‘“Criminals Incapable of Reform?': Reassessing the population of Cockatoo Island Prison (Sydney), 1839-69'. I created a database of over 2500 prisoners incarcerated on Cockatoo Island which can be accessed on my website Cockatoo Island Convicts. I am committed to highlighting the the diversity of the inmate population, telling the life-stories of Indigenous, Black-British, Afro-Caribbean, Chinese and East-Asian convicts. You can view my public lecture Convict Lives on Cockatoo Island online.

I was awarded my PhD in History at the University of Leicester in December 2017. My award-winning thesis explored the use of prison islands in colonial Australia to incarcerate Indigenous, European and other immigrant populations. Using the case-studies of Rottnest/Wadjemup, Melville Island/Yermalnear and Cockatoo Island/Wareamah, it argued that exile to islands were crucial for colonial state to "govern" colonial populations and exploit their labour at the maritime margins. I am in the process of turning it into an book. My PhD studentship was part of of European Research Council project ‘'The Carceral Archipelago: Transnational Circulations in Global Perspective, 1415-1960', led by Prof. Clare Anderson.

I have previously held research posts as a Caird-Sackler Fellow at the National Maritime Museum (2019) and Pearsall Fellow at the Institute of Historical Research, University of London (2017/18). I have also been awarded a number of prestigious awards including the Hakluyt Society Research Grant (2018), Tomlin Bequest from the Society for Nautical Research (2018), National Archives of Australia/Australian Historical Association Postgraduate Scholarship (2016) and the Australian Bicentennial Scholarship from the Menzies Centre of Australian Studies (2014).