Punishment in Paradise

Race, Slavery, Human Rights, and a Nineteenth-Century Brazilian Penal Colony

Punishment in Paradise

Book Pages: 352 Illustrations: 8 illustrations Published: March 2015

History > Latin American History, Latin American Studies > Brazil, Theory and Philosophy > Race and Indigeneity

Throughout the nineteenth century the idyllic island of Fernando de Noronha, which lies two hundred miles off Brazil's northeastern coast, was home to Brazil's largest forced labor penal colony. In Punishment in Paradise Peter M. Beattie uses Noronha as a case study to understand nineteenth-century Brazil's varied social and cultural values, especially in relation to justice, class, color, civil condition, human rights and labor. As Brazil’s slave population declined after 1850, the use of colonial-era disciplinary practices at Noronha—such as flogging and forced labor—stoked anxieties about human rights and Brazil’s international image. Beattie contends that the treatment of slaves, convicts, and other social categories subject to coercive labor extraction were interconnected and that reforms that benefitted one of these categories made them harder to deny to others. In detailing Noronha's history and the end of slavery as part of an international expansion of human rights, Beattie places Brazil firmly in the purview of Atlantic history.


"Beattie’s account of the events on Fernando and its various classes of inmates and other inhabitants is extremely rich in detail and a good read from beginning to end." — Pieter Spierenburg, British Journal of Criminology

"As a way to reflect on Brazil as a whole at the time, as well as on penology, gender, slavery, and human rights in the greater Atlantic world, Fernando de Noronha’s history magnifies some points and either distorts or omits others. But Beattie’s approach shows how this unique setting can inform a varied range of larger issues." — Thomas H. Holloway, Journal of Interdisciplinary History

"This work is a valuable tool for graduate teaching in Brazilian, Latin American, or African diaspora history, and it is essential reading for scholars of the Atlantic world." — Zachary R. Morgan, American Historical Review

"The originality of this volume lies in this broad approach and its capacity to cut across the boundaries of various sub-disciplines.... The volume is well written and has a clear structure, the documentary basis rich and varied and its interpretations convincing." — Christian G. de Vito, Journal of Latin American Studies

"Scholars of slavery will especially want to read this carefully crafted and polished work, based on a rich collection of documentation to and from the colony." — Timothy J. Coates, The Historian

"Peter Beattie has produced a multi-faceted and insightful study, a prime example of how to study Brazil’s popular classes as both a coherent and a multi-faceted group.... [A] balanced and well-written book, one crowned by a handful of brilliant concepts that will raise the bar for future studies of popular groups in Brazil’s long nineteenth century." — Oscar de la Torre, Canadian Journal of History

"Punishment in Paradise unearths new and unique archival material, engages with a wide breadth of scholarship, and is deftly written. It will be essential reading for scholars of Brazil, slavery, and coerced labor in the Atlantic World as well as scholars interested in the intersections of masculinity, sexuality, criminality, and human rights." — Lena Suk, Labor

"Peter Beattie provides a fascinating glimpse into the penal colony of Fernando de Noronha in nineteenth century Brazil. He reveals through meticulous research that the social, cultural, and material lived experiences on the island were not limited to the small Atlantic archipelago. . . . In all, Beattie successfully makes the case that the island serves as a lens through which to view Brazil’s larger national history." — Jessica Fletcher, AmeriQuests

"Peter Beattie’s Punishment in Paradise is an expertly crafted history of Fernando de Noronha. . . . There are no other books on this important penal colony in English, and it is by far the best-researched historical monograph among about five in Portuguese." — Ian Read, Canadian Journal of Latin American and Caribbean Studies

"Punishment in Paradise will be essential reading for scholars and legal practitioners interested in understanding the criminal law and penal practice and its embeddedness in a long history of labor appropriation. It should attract a broad readership, including those interested in Brazilian history, the transatlantic nineteenth century, slavery and abolition, and the history of crime and punishment. This book should make its way onto syllabi for advanced undergraduate and graduate courses on the history of crime and justice; the history of gender and sexuality; and the social history of Brazil, Latin America, and the Atlantic world generally." — Amy Chazkel, H-Law, H-Net Reviews

"Punishment in Paradise provides much food for thought and invitation to debate. Like The Tribute of Blood, it should shape syllabi and research agendas for years to come." — Marc A. Hertzman, Luso-Brazilian Review

"Beattie illuminate[s] themes that have been largely overlooked or neglected in national historiographies." — Evan C. Rothera, European Review of Latin American and Caribbean Studies

"Peter Beattie has crafted a thoughtfully researched sociolegal history. Punishment in Paradise will be essential reading for scholars and students of crime, punishment, and justice in addition to labor regimes within the transatlantic nineteenth century. It should also attract a broad readership, including those interested in Brazilian history as well as slavery and abolition." — Manuella Meyer, Hispanic American Historical Review

"Using the Fernando de Noronha penal colony as a metaphor for Brazilian society, Peter M. Beattie has written a superb microhistory that is in fact a macrohistory. By examining debates over psychology, sexuality, and criminality, Punishment in Paradise analyzes state attempts to control Brazil's social and geographic margins. Beattie's creative questions and methods provide new answers to an old question: why was Brazil the last country in the Americas to end slavery and one of the very first to end capital punishment." — Jeffrey Lesser, author of A Discontented Diaspora: Japanese Brazilians and the Meanings of Ethnic Militancy, 1960–1980

"Peter Beattie’s superb study opens an entirely new window on the most under-researched segment of postcolonial Brazilian society. The great majority of the Brazil's population by the second half of the nineteenth century consisted of free people of little means, but their precarious lives have repeatedly frustrated even the most painstaking archival investigations. By mining the documentary treasures of the records from Fernando de Noronha, Beattie probes the way elites and the poor, in a society transitioning away from slavery, negotiated and reconfigured hierarchies of race, status, and reputation. Every student of Brazil and the South Atlantic is deeply in his debt." — Barbara Weinstein, author of The Color of Modernity: São Paulo and the Making of Race and Nation in Brazil


Availability: In stock
Price: $28.95

Open Access

Author/Editor Bios Back to Top

Peter M. Beattie is Associate Professor of History at Michigan State University.  He is the author of The Tribute of Blood: Army, Honor, Race, and Nation in Brazil 1864-1945, also published by Duke University Press, and he has served as coeditor of the Luso Brazilian Review for the areas of history and social science since 2004.

Table of Contents Back to Top
Sales/Territorial Rights: World

Rights and licensing
Additional InformationBack to Top
Paper ISBN: 978-0-8223-5830-5 / Cloth ISBN: 978-0-8223-5816-9
Publicity material