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Bentham and Australia

Convicts, utility and empire

Distinguished scholars contextualize and critically assess Jeremy Bentham’s writings on Australia.

This volume considers Jeremy Bentham’s Australian writings. In the first part of the volume, Bentham’s works are placed in their historical contexts, while the second part provides a critical assessment of the historical accuracy and plausibility of Bentham’s arguments against transportation from the British Isles. In the third part, attention turns to Bentham’s claim that New South Wales was founded illegally and to the imperial and colonial constitutional ramifications of that claim. The authors also discuss Bentham’s work of 1831 in which he supports the establishment of a free colony on the southern coast of Australia. In the final part, the authors shed light on the history of Bentham’s panopticon penitentiary scheme, his views on the punishment and reform of criminals and what role, if any, religion had to play in that regard, and discuss apparently panopticon-inspired institutions built in the Australian colonies.
This collection will appeal to readers interested in Bentham’s life and thought, the history of transportation from the British Isles and of British penal policy more generally, colonial and imperial history, Indigenous history, legal and constitutional history, and religious history.

420 pages | 16 color plates | 6.14 x 9.21 | © 2022

Asian Studies: Southeast Asia and Australia

History: History of Ideas

Philosophy: History and Classic Works

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Table of Contents

List of contributors

List of figures

List of tables



Tim Causer

Part I. The historical context of Bentham’s writings on

1. Bentham and the Criminal-Fiscal state


2. Bentham, convict
transportation, and the Great Confinement Thesis


Part II. Bentham and the theory and practice of transportation to

3. ‘Confinement’, ‘banishment’, and ‘bondage’: contesting practices of
exile in the British Empire

Kirsten McKenzie

4. Would Western Australia have met Bentham’s five measures of penal justice?

Katherine Roscoe and Barry Godfrey

5. ‘Inspection, the only effective instrument of reformative management’: Bentham, surveillance, and convict recidivism in early New South Wales

Matthew Allen and David Andrew Roberts

Part III. The constitutional implications of Bentham’s writings on Australia

6. Jeremy Bentham and the imperial constitution at the Meridian, 1763–1815: legislature, judicature, and office in the Administration of England and the British Empire

Edward Cavanagh

7. ‘The British Constitution Conquered in New South Wales’: Bentham and constitutional reform in early Australia, 1803–24

Anne Brunon-Ernst

8. Jeremy Bentham on South Australia, colonial government, and representative democracy

Philip Schofield

9. ‘Peopling the Country by Unpeopling It’: Jeremy Bentham’s silences on Indigenous Australia

Zoë Laidlaw

Part IV. Bentham, the panopticon penitentiary scheme, and penal institutions and practices in Australia and Britain

10. Inverting the panopticon: Van Diemen’s Land and the invention of a colonial Pentonville Prison

Honey Dower

11. The panopticon archetype and the Swan River Colony: establishing Fremantle Gaol, 1831–41

Emily Lanman

12. Religion and penal reform in the Australian writings of Jeremy Bentham

Hilary M. Carey

13. The panopticon penitentiary, the convict hulks, and political corruption: Jeremy Bentham’s ‘Third Letter to Lord Pelham’

Tim Causer


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