Banishment in the Early Atlantic World: Convicts, Rebels and Slaves by Gwenda Morgan and Peter Rushton

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Nicole K. Dressler

Abstract

During the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, judicial transportation, military and political exile, and forced migration characterized legal cultures in Great Britain and its North American colonies. In Banishment in the Early Atlantic World, Gwenda Morgan and Peter Rushton explore the processes of expulsion and the outcomes for those banished—criminals, rogues, vagrants, military and political offenders, religious dissidents, rebels, the poor, and bound laborers. Adopting an Atlantic perspective, the authors use a number of case studies to explain how various forms of banishment developed and changed in the British empire. The authors show that British authorities traditionally utilized banishment as a penalty for criminals and as a mechanism to remove undesirable people from mainstream society. Colonial authorities in British North America continued this practice, but they redefined whom they deemed troublesome or rebellious. For the British mainland colonies and the Caribbean, “banishment for political, racial or religious purposes was the norm rather than a penalty for criminal offenses” (3). Lawmakers, military leaders, and political officials used legislation as a means to legitimate banishment, but many offenders sought legal redress, indicating that legalism was understood in a cultural context. Morgan and Ruston assert that banishment became a critical but complicated feature of legal systems on both sides of the Atlantic, shaping the lives of exiles as well as their communities in the British empire.

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Book Reviews