Topic: Macaulay, the India Penal Code, and labour in the British Empire

Presenter: Professor Barry Wright - Carleton University, Ottawa, Canada

The seminar will examine conflicting assessments of Thomas Macaulay's 1836 draft India Penal Code (the first and most Benthamite criminal code in the British Empire, enacted, with retrograde changes, after the Mutiny in 1860) from the perspective of labour issues. It will focus on Macaulay's unsuccessful attempt to end indigenous practices of slavery and curb the exploitation and transportation of indentured labour. The imperial abolition of slavery (1833-4) was not extended to the autonomous Princely states and saw the rapid growth of an empire-wide trade in indentured labour. I argue that Macaulay's efforts and their frustration are an important aspect of larger narratives about imperial abolition and the labour transitions that followed. The experience also illustrates the limits of progressive law reform initiatives within the context of imperial economic imperatives and the political impulses of colonial rule. 

This seminar is presented by the TC Beirne School of Law Research Seminar Series, and the Centre for Public, International and Comparative Law. 
All welcome, no RSVP required. A light lunch is provided at the seminar.

Contact: Beth Williams, ph: 334 69350, email:


About Research Seminar Series

The UQ Law Research Seminar Series provides an opportunity to explore and critically discuss legal and interdisciplinary issues in an academic environment. The seminars are an integral part of the School’s research culture.

For further enquiries about this Seminar Series or if you are interested in presenting a seminar, please contact the Research Office (

You may also be interested in related seminar series:

To receive notice of upcoming seminars and other law school news, please subscribe to the School’s E-Newsletter.


Sir Samuel Griffith Room, 1-W341, Forgan Smith Building