1st Edition

Empires and Colonial Incarceration in the Twentieth Century

    246 Pages
    by Routledge

    246 Pages
    by Routledge

    This book engages with a controversial issue, namely the establishment of penal colonies and concentration camps in imperial spaces, which have informed ongoing debates on the repressive practices of colonial rule and popular resistance against it. The contributors offer a reassessment of the history of politically motivated incarceration based upon a multi-disciplinary perspective in a global, imperial setting during the twentieth century.

    The introduction and seven chapters engage with comparative and transnational perspectives on political persecution, forced confinement and colonial rule in British, French, German, Belgian and Portuguese dominions in Africa, Asia, Oceania and Latin America. Addressing political incarceration's global imperial dimensions, they focus upon the organisation, strategies, narratives and practices associated with political internment in Africa (Angola, Tanzania, Rhodesia, South Africa), Latin America (French Guyana) and the Pacific region (New Caledonia). Penal legislation, policies of convict transport and political imprisonment, resettlement, prison regimes, resistance and liberation struggles, counter insurgency, prisoner agency, and prisons as cultural spaces and of memory are discussed here for different time periods from the mid-1800s to the late twentieth century. The chapters build upon the ongoing debate on political incarceration in the empire and the remarkable dynamic scientific research witnessed over the last decades. As a result, they provide novel insights into the nature of legal systems, colonial discourse, memory, racial segregation and persecution, prisoners’ narratives of practices of punishment and incarceration, and human rights abuses in imperial spaces.

    The chapters in this book were originally published as a special issue of The Journal of Imperial and Commonwealth History. The editors have also written an original conclusion to the present volume.


    David M. Anderson

    Introduction: Empires and Colonial Incarceration in the Twentieth Century

    Philip J. Havik, Helena Pinto Janeiro, Pedro Aires Oliveira and Irene Pimentel

    1. Prison and Law, Repression and Resistance: Colonialism and Beyond

    Fran Buntman

    2. The Penal World in the French Empire: A Comparative Study of French Transportation and its Legacy in Guyana and New Caledonia

    Isabelle Merle and Marine Coquet

    3. Graves, Houses of Pain and Execution: Memories of the German Prisons after the Majimaji War in Tanzania (1904–1908)

    Nancy A. Rushohora

    4. The Productivity of Political Imprisonment: Stories from Rhodesia

    Jocelyn Alexander

    5. Colonial Incarceration and Selective Memories: What Is Remembered? Who Is Forgotten? The Case of Peasant Women Deported to São Nicolau (Angola, 1969)

    Maria da Conceição Neto

    6. The Penal Origins of Colonial Model Villages: From Aborted Concentration Camps to Forced Resettlement in Angola (1930–1969)

    Bernardo Pinto da Cruz

    7. Contextualising Apartheid at the End of Empire: Repression, ‘Development’ and the Bantustans

    Laura Evans

    Conclusion: Political Repression, Confinement in Empire and Post-Colonial Legacies

    Philip J. Havik, Helena Pinto Janeiro, Pedro Aires Oliveira and Irene Pimentel


    Philip J. Havik (PhD Social Sciences, Leiden University, NL) is Senior Researcher at the Instituto de Hygiene and Tropical Medicine (IHMT) of the Universidade NOVA in Lisbon, Portugal, while also teaching at the same institution. His research engages with global health, public health, anthropology of health, history of tropical medicine and the colonial and post-colonial development of Lusophone African countries.

    Helena Pinto Janeiro (PhD in Contemporary History) is a historian at the Diplomatic Institute of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Portugal and a researcher at the Institute of Contemporary History (IHC) of the Universidade NOVA in Lisbon. Her current research centres on the World Wars and the League of Nations; memorial museums and transitional justice; archives and oral history; and political prisons and camps.

    Pedro Aires Oliveira (PhD in Contemporary History) is Associate Professor at the School of Social Sciences and Humanities of the Universidade NOVA in Lisbon, Portugal, and an integrated researcher at the Institute of Contemporary History. He has authored, co-authored and edited several books on Portuguese foreign relations and overseas/imperial history, and has contributed to several international peer-review journals. 

    Irene Flunser Pimentel (PhD Institutional History and Contemporary Politics) is a researcher at the Institute of Contemporary History of the Universidade NOVA in Lisbon, Portugal. She has (co-) authored several books on the Portuguese Political Police (PIDE/DGS), the Portuguese New State Dictatorship, Women’s Organizations and Portugal during the Second World War.