No Bond but the Law

Punishment, Race, and Gender in Jamaican State Formation, 1780–1870

No Bond but the Law

Next Wave: New Directions in Women's Studies

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Book Pages: 312 Illustrations: 20 illus. Published: October 2004

Author: Diana Paton

Caribbean Studies, Gender and Sexuality > Feminism and Women’s Studies, History > Latin American History

Investigating the cultural, social, and political histories of punishment during ninety years surrounding the 1838 abolition of slavery in Jamaica, Diana Paton challenges standard historiographies of slavery and discipline. The abolition of slavery in Jamaica, as elsewhere, entailed the termination of slaveholders’ legal right to use violence—which they defined as “punishment”—against those they had held as slaves. Paton argues that, while slave emancipation involved major changes in the organization and representation of punishment, there was no straightforward transition from corporal punishment to the prison or from privately inflicted to state-controlled punishment. Contesting the dichotomous understanding of pre-modern and modern modes of power that currently dominates the historiography of punishment, she offers critical readings of influential theories of power and resistance, including those of Michel Foucault, Pierre Bourdieu, and Ranajit Guha.

No Bond but the Law reveals the longstanding and intimate relationship between state formation and private punishment. The construction of a dense, state-organized system of prisons began not with emancipation but at the peak of slave-based wealth in Jamaica, in the 1780s. Jamaica provided the paradigmatic case for British observers imagining and evaluating the emancipation process. Paton’s analysis moves between imperial processes on the one hand and Jamaican specificities on the other, within a framework comparing developments regarding punishment in Jamaica with those in the U.S. South and elsewhere. Emphasizing the gendered nature of penal policy and practice throughout the emancipation period, Paton is attentive to the ways in which the actions of ordinary Jamaicans and, in particular, of women prisoners, shaped state decisions.


“ [A] well-written and imaginatively crafted monograph. . . . Paton treats us to a model of how historians work. She reviews the scholarship and sources of evidence already in place and then breaks new ground of discovery and interpretation.” — Bruce M. Taylor , History

No Bond but the Law represents a remarkably rounded contribution not only to the history of Jamaica but also to an understanding of the history of punishment and of the evolution of racism in the 19th century. . . . [T]his work, in exploring issues of crime and punishment during a formative period of Jamaica’s history, throws much light on the dire situation of today. The legacy of the Cold War politics of the 1970s and the exponential growth of narcotics trafficking in the region may have exacerbated the crime problem, but its roots evidently lie much deeper in the past.” — Jonathan Dalby, Punishment and Society

“[A] timely contribution. . . . [An] obvious strength is Paton’s expertise at showing how race, class and gender intersected and helped to determine the experiences of those who were either recipients of punishment, or who determined the nature of punishment in the country. The result is that readers are provided with a rich analysis from various vantage points. . . . No Bond but the Law can be seen to have contemporary relevance, standing as it does as a challenge to current governments to interrogate the national discourse regarding punishment, crime, and the ideas held about people construed in the national imagination as criminals.” — Dawn Blissett , Canadian Journal of Latin American and Caribbean Studies

“[A]mbitious and stimulating….This theoretical contribution of Paton’s book is a strong example of how colonial scholarship can produce unexpected insights into the mainstream of European history.” — John Savage , Latin America and the Caribbean

“[A]n important contribution to several bodies of scholarship. . . . No Bond but the Law shows the centrality of [race and gender] to the process of state formation in Jamaica and to the creation of a prison system in the island. This book is a must-read to legal historians, whatever their geographical area of concentration, and to scholars of race and gender in the Americas.” — Alejandro de la Fuente , Labor

“[T]he strength of the book is its exciting contribution to the study of gender and race as the authors suggest pertinent methodologies applicable to other subaltern and colonial contexts. . . . Most significantly, the volume breaks new ground by demonstrating how historians can balance attention to gender, race, and labor relations around the often false divide of political emancipation.” — Rachel Sarah O’Toole , Journal of Colonialism & Colonial History

“[The book] is sufficiently innovative to earn [it] a permanent place in the historiography of the Caribbean, law and punishment, and gender studies.” — Robert J. Stewart , Hispanic American Historical Review

“Paton argues convincingly that punishment was always gendered and raced. . . . These are important contributions and this book deserves to be widely read and discussed.” — Catherine Hall , Journal of Imperial and Commonwealth History

“Paton details the position of the colonized and the imprisoned in this study of Jamaican state formation, thus expanding the historiography of imperialism and contributing to the field of law and society.” — Dawn Rae Flood , Journal of Women's History

“Paton’s historiography succeeds in showing how the forms of punishment that characterized Jamaia between 1780-1870 emerged out of struggle as well as ideology. . . . Her use of the work of Marx, Gramsci, and Foucault to fashion her theoretical framework is illuminating.” — Cynthia Mahabir , Law and History Review

“This book … sheds valuable new light on the tensions and conflicts that accompanied the transition from a slave to a free-labour economy. It also highlights the ways in which ideas regarding punishment, discipline and labour traversed the Atlantic and the British empire.” — Christer Petley , History

"[E]xcellent. . . . Paton's argument is carefully crafted, and she uses gender successfully as a way of moving forward her interpretation of the rule of law." — B.W. Higman , American Historical Review

"[T]his well-researched and fluently-written book is a model of what histories of slavery and emancipation should do: focus on the links between metropole and colony; invoke multiple categories of analysis; give as much weight to the voice of the colonized as that of the colonizer; and challenge existing interpretations. . . . [T]he book [makes] a substantial contribution to the scholarship on slavery, emancipatin, and punishment." — Henrice Altink, Journal of Colonialism & Colonial History

"This book is a must-read for all political aspirants in Jamaica, and all students of Jamaican politics or history. The book in its entirety, including its 50 pages of endnotes, makes for excellent reading and gives an insight into where we are coming from and where we need to go, as we seek to continuously reform Jamaica for the better." — Marcus Goffe , Jamaica Gleaner

No Bond but the Law is a model of research procedure and historical writing.” — Sidney Mintz, author of Sweetness and Power: The Place of Sugar in Modern History

No Bond but the Law is one of the most interesting and intellectually ambitious works of scholarship to be published in the field of slave and emancipation studies in recent years. Diana Paton has written a book that takes several important conceptual matters and historiographies—emancipation, punishment, gender, and state formation—and puts them together in a remarkably compelling and original way.” — Steven Hahn, author of A Nation under Our Feet: Black Political Struggles in the Rural South from Slavery to the Great Migr


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Author/Editor Bios Back to Top

Diana Paton is a Lecturer in History at the University of Newcastle upon Tyne in England. She is the editor of A Narrative of Events, since the First of August 1834, by James Williams, an Apprenticed Labourer in Jamaica, published by Duke University Press.

Table of Contents Back to Top
Illustrations xi

Acknowledgments xiii

Introduction 1

Prison and Plantation 19

Planters, Magistrates, and Apprentices 53

The Treadmill and the Whip 83

Penality and Politics in a “Free” Society 121

Justice and the Jamaican People 156

Conclusion 191

Notes 201

Bibliography 253

Index 281
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Additional InformationBack to Top
Paper ISBN: 978-0-8223-3398-2 / Cloth ISBN: 978-0-8223-3401-9
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