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People down on their luck fleeing to the colonies on the first available ship is a mainstay of 19th century fiction. It was a convenient way for an author to either get rid of an unnecessary character, or to bring a surprise new person into the narrative mix with dramatic effect.
Lauren Benton and Lisa Ford’s jointly-written book is slim in size – 197 pages of text, 74 of notes – but expansive in scope and interpretative ambition. It is a dense, complex piece of history, frequently operating on several levels at once.
Law and Politics in British Colonial Thought, as its titles implies, covers a vast area of historical interest. While the editors do not call their collection systematic, they do hope to present new ways of thinking to a wide audience; a task in which they succeed, both in terms of approaching localised issues and addressing overarching theoretical and geographical frameworks.