Post-war problems

By 1815, Britain had been at war almost continuously for more than three decades. A long period of fighting meant fewer idle hands on the streets and fewer people in prison. Less ships, and sailors, available for non-war needs had also slowed the number of convict transports to NSW. With peace in place, after the defeat of Napoleon in June 1815, came the challenge of resettling large numbers of disbanded soldiers back into civilian life - magnifying problems of urban congestion, ailing sanitation and poverty. More shocks followed with soaring food costs and crippling shortages, the spread of farm machinery and rising unemployment. Laws protecting country estates and industry sparked recession, igniting social unrest and, in turn, widespread crime. In a grim coincidence, far away in the East Indies (Indonesia) a freakishly large volcanic eruption cloaked the northern hemisphere in sulphurous airborne ash. Without warmth and sunlight, crops withered across Britain and by the middle of 1816 - remembered as the year without a summer - harvest failure, hunger, riots and violence added to the country’s deepening economic woes. Growing urban misery, crime and social dislocation inevitably fed prison populations. Newly released from war service, transport ships were once again sailing for New South Wales, filled to the gunwales with convicts. In the colony, labour shortages were about to end.