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Society and Culture

Criminal Transportation and Penal Reform in The Early Modern British World

The punishment of crime is a reflection of a society's culture. It delineates the borders of legitimacy (what is and what is not acceptable in a society); engages in a discourse of justice, mercy, shame, and honour; and reveals tensions between judicial practice and the letter of the law that define fundamental cultural understandings of behavior and power. Cultural conceptions of crime and punishment were strained by the changes of the early modern world, and new forms of punishment--like transportation, which relied on an expanding imperial sphere--came to the fore. This seminar will examine the evolution of cultural theory over the past four decades before examining transportation and criminal justice through the lens of cultural studies. It will explore the shifting culture of crime and justice in early modern Britain and its empire. In addition to discussing legal reforms, we will explore the ways in which Britain’s growing empire changed and was changed by new judicial practices and ideas about criminality. Special attention will be paid to penal transportation, and we will examine competing historiographical approaches and convict narratives employed in London’s criminal courts.

Secondary Readings

Paul Griffiths, “Punishing the English”, Simon Devereaux and Paul Griffiths eds., Penal Politics and Culture 1500-1900: Punishing the English (Palgrave, 2004), introduction.

J.M. Beattie, Policing and punishment in London, 1660-1750, chapter 9.

A. Rubin, “The unintended consequences of penal reform: a case study of penal transportation in the eighteenth century,” Law and Society Review 46, 4 (2012): 815-51.

P. Rushton and G. Morgan, Banishment in the early Atlantic world, chapter 6.

Primary Sources

Old Bailey Online

Trial of John Jettea, February 1753; Trial of William Hambleton, September 1754; Trial of John Furgerson, May 1757; Trial of Thomas Brown, September 1765Trial of John Dailey, January 1766

Central Questions for Discussion:

- How do we define culture in the early modern period? Is there a difference between popular and elite culture? How might this be articulated in the courtroom?

- Why did Britain turn to a policy of transportation in 1718? What Impact Did this Change Have on Crime/other Forms of Punishment?

- What did the policies of transportation tell us about how Britain saw its colonies and its criminals?

- Historiographically, how does a metropolitan view of transportation (e.g., Beattie) contrast with an Atlantic view (e.g., Rushton and Morgan)?

- How can we construct the convict experience from trial records? What are their limitations?

Further Reading List

Key Theoretical Texts:

Peter Burke, What is Cultural History? (Cambridge, 2008)

Norbert Elias, The Civilizing Process: Sociogenetic and Psychogenetic Investigations. Revised edition. (Oxford, 2000)

Michel Foucault, Discipline and Punish: the Birth of the Prison (1991)

Texts on Transportation and Penal Reform:

Clare Anderson, Legible Bodies: Race, Criminality and Colonialism in South Asia (Berg, 2004)

Convicts in the Indian Ocean: Transportation from South Asia to Mauritius (Palgrave, 2000)

J.M. Beattie, Crime and the Courts in England, 1660-1800 (Princeton, 1986 ), Chapters 9, 10

Policing and Punishment in London, 1660-1800 (Oxford, 2001), Chapter 9

Emma Christopher, A Merciless Place: The Lost Story of Britain’s Convict Disaster in Africa (Oxford, 2010)

Timothy Coates, Convicts and Orphans: Forced and State-Sponsored Colonizers in the Portuguese Empire, 1550-1755 (Stanford, 2002)

Peter Wilson Coldham, Emigrants in Chains: A Social History of Forced Emigration to the Americas (1994)

Simon Devereaux, “Imposing the Royal Pardon: Execution, Transportation and Convict Resistance in London, 1789,” Law and History Review, 25 (2007), 101-135

A Roger Ekrich, Bound For America: The Transportation of British Convicts to the Colonies, 1718-1775 (Oxford, 1987)

“Great Britain’s Secret Convict Trade to America, 1783-1784,” American Historical Review, 89:5 (December 1984), 1285-91

Cynthia Herrup, “Punishing Pardon: Some Thoughts on the Origins of Penal Transportation,” in Devereaux and Griffiths eds., Penal Politics and Culture 1500-1900: Punishing the English (Palgrave, 2004)

Philip Jenkins, “From Gallows to Prison? The Execution Rate in Early Modern England,” Criminal Justice History 7 (1986), 51-71.

Gwenda Morgan and Peter Rushton, Banishment in the Atlantic World: Convicts, Rebels and Slaves (London: Bloomsbury Academic, 2013)

Eighteenth Century Criminal Transportation: The Formation of a Criminal Atlantic (Basingstoke: Palgrave, 2004)

“Fraud and Freedom: Gender, Identity and Narratives of Deception Among Female Convicts in Colonial America,” Journal for Eighteenth Century Studies 2011, 34(3), 335-355.

“Print Culture, Crime, and Transportation in the Criminal Atlantic,” Continuity and Change 2007, 22(1), 49-71.

“Harlots, Hussies and Poor Unfortunate Women: Crime, Transportation and the Servitude of Female Convicts,” Journal of American History 2015, 102(1), 225-225.

“Running Away and Returning Home: the Fate of English Convicts in the Colonies,” Crime, Histoire et Societes 2003, 7, 61-80

Ruth Pike, Penal Servitude in Early Modern Spain (Madison, 1986)

Ashley Rubin, “The unintended consequences of penal reform: a case study of penal transportation in the eighteenth century,” Law and Society Review 46, 4 (2012): 815-51.

Robert Shoemaker and Tim Hitchcock, London Lives: Poverty Crime and the Making of the Modern City (Cambridge, 2015), p. 322-393

Anand Yang, Exile in Colonial Asia: Kings, Convicts, Commemoration (Hawaii, 2016)

“Indian Convict Workers in Southeast Asia in the Late-Eighteenth and Early Nineteenth Centuries,” Journal of World History 14, 2 (2003), 179-208

Kerry Ward, Networks of Empire: Forced Migration in the Dutch East India Company (Cambridge, 2012)