Bentham and Australia: Convicts, Utility, and Empire

Date / time: 11 April - 12 April, 10:00 am - 5:00 pm

Bentham and Australia: Convicts, Utility, and Empire

Registration page:

The philosopher and reformer Jeremy Bentham (1748-1832) was one of the most important contributors to debates surrounding the colonization of the Australian continent, in the first place as a destination for transported convicts and later by free settlers. His ‘Letter to Lord Pelham’ (1802) was the earliest detailed philosophical critique of transportation to New South Wales by a major philsopher ; ‘A Plea for the Constitution’ (1803) saw Bentham contend that the penal colony had been unlawfully founded, which had ramifications for the Imperial constitution more generally; and ‘Colonization Company Proposal’ (1831) was Bentham’s commentary upon the National Colonization Society’s Proposal to His Majesty’s Government for Founding a Colony on the Southern Coast of Australia (1831).

To mark the forthcoming publication of Bentham’s ‘Writings on Australia’, a volume in the new authoritative edition of ‘The Collected Works of Jeremy Bentham’, this two-day conference will see scholars explore these exciting and challenging texts. (To download free pre-publication versions of Bentham’s ‘Writings on Australia’, please visit:

Speakers will discuss, amongst other relevant topics, Bentham’s interventions in the histories of Aboriginal and European Australia, colonialism, international law, convict transportatation, and in the histories of crime and punishment more generally.

Speakers include :

  • Professor Hilary Carey (Bristol)
  • Dr Tim Causer (UCL)
  • Professor Margot Finn (UCL)
  • Professor Barry Godfrey (Liverpool)
  • Professor Zoë Laidlaw (Melbourne)
  • Professor Kirsten McKenzie (Sydney)
  • Professor Hamish Maxwell-Stewart (Tasmania)
  • Professor Deborah Oxley (Oxford)
  • Professor Philip Schofield (UCL)

A full programme will be announced later.Registration covers (on both days) welcome coffee and pastries, a morning tea and coffee break, a fork buffet lunch, and an afternoon tea and coffee break. A limited number of subsidised tickets for research students, the non-tenured, and precariously employed are also available.An optional conference dinner at Tas Bloomsbury (menu to follow) can also be booked below. For catering purposes, if you have any dietary requirements or allergies please note them when booking your registration, or contact Tim Causer (

Please use the same address if you have any other queries about the conference.

This conference is supported by the Arts and Humanities Research Council.

Location: UCL Faculty of Laws, Bentham House, 4-8 Endsleigh Gardens, London, England WC1H 0EG