Now Available: Bound with an Iron Chain by Anthony Vaver

Bound with an Iron Chain: The Untold Story of How the British Transported 50,000 Convicts to Colonial America, an Bestseller, is now available.

ISBN 978-0-9836744-0-5
Library of Congress Control Number: 2011908764
358 pages (i-xx + 338, including Notes, Sources, and Index)
Retail Price: $16.99 paperback; $6.99 e-book

In 1723, James Bell grabbed a book from a London bookstall and started to run, but he was chased by several witnesses and was discovered hiding in a dog kennel. As punishment for his crime, Bell was loaded on a ship and sent to colonial America, where he was sold at auction as an indentured servant for a seven-year term.

Most people know that England shipped thousands of convicts to Australia, but few are aware that colonial America was the original destination for Britain’s unwanted criminals. In the 18th century, thousands of British convicts like Bell were separated from their families, chained together in the hold of a ship, and carried off to America. What happened to these convicts once they arrived? Did they eventually prosper in an environment of unlimited opportunity, or were they ostracized by other colonists and doomed to live in poverty?

Anthony Vaver tells the stories of the petty thieves and professional criminals who were subjected to this unique punishment, and in bringing to life this forgotten chapter in American history, he challenges the way we think about immigration to early America.

The book also includes an appendix with tips on researching individual convicts who were transported to America.

Anthony Vaver at Blackfriars, where transported convicts from London set sail for America.

Anthony Vaver is the author and publisher of, a website that explores crime, criminals, and punishments from America’s past. He has a Ph.D. from the State University of New York at Stony Brook and an M.L.S. from Rutgers University, and he is currently working on a new book about early American criminals. He has never spent a night in jail, but he was once falsely accused of shoplifting.

Find Bound with an Iron Chain at:

Bound with an Iron Chain is an Bestseller in the subject categories of Colonial American History, English History, and Immigrants!


“Bound with an Iron Chain is a fascinating, detailed, and eye-opening look at a little-discussed historical phenomenon: the systematic transportation of more than 50,000 criminals from Great Britain to colonial America in the eighteenth century. Anthony Vaver writes with great clarity, always with an eye to including an original, colorful anecdote. Whether you are student or scholar, historian or genealogist, reading this book will have you thinking in new ways about what it meant to be enslaved or free in early America. I thoroughly enjoyed and learned so much from this book.”
Devoney Looser, Professor of English and 18th-Century Studies, University of Missouri

“With a skillful blend of historical accuracy and engaging narrative, Bound with an Iron Chain retells the long lost tale of convicts who were transported unwillingly by the boatload to America’s shores and like ne’er-do-well nephews were conveniently forgotten.”
Robert Wilhelm,

“This is a great book. With a storyteller’s verve, Anthony Vaver recalls to life the 50,000 colonists you were supposed to forget all about. From the London underworld to the New World frontier, from stolen stockings in Cheapside to the American Revolution, Vaver retrieves an ocean-straddling social history and the legacy of men, women, and children once written out of their eventual country’s founding myth.”
Jason Zanon,

“Informative and erudite, but always flavoured with the grit of the matter in hand, Anthony Vaver has created a valuable and highly readable work on a neglected subject. Read it and be absorbed by the dark side of early America.”
Lucy Inglis,

Find Bound with an Iron Chain at:

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