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Visible bodies: power, subordination and identity in the eighteenth-century Atlantic world.

In the eighteenth century the developing print culture made bodies--particularly the bodies of the poor, the troublesome and the criminal, more noticeable than ever before. While bodies in the early modern period were subject to inspection under many different circumstances (as Gowing has shown), mostly when their owners had come under suspicion or their identity into question, what made the eighteenth century distinctive was that the results of these scrutinies became public in a culture of advertisement. (1) Beginning in the late seventeenth century in London, and then spreading throughout the English-speaking Atlantic by the 1720s, newspapers provided a cheap and locally-available means of publicising those who had been seized by suspicious authorities or had proved mutinous by leaving their posts without permission. From masters trying to recover runaway slaves or servants, to officers recovering their deserting recruits, to magistrates and the victims of crimes searching for stolen goods and their takers, the new print culture was used to spread the word--and the image. Everyone unknowingly adopted Sir John Fielding's watchword for detecting criminals: "quick notice and sudden pursuit," applying it to many who had run away and were sought. (2) Others were found, suspected and seized for inspection. For example, in Virginia, one advertisement read--
 COMMITTED to Suffolk Jail, on Suspicion of being a Convict Servant, a
 Man about five Feet eight or nine Inches high; he has brown Hair, of
 a fair Complexion with Freckles, says he is a Weaver by Trade, and
 that he came from Glasgow, but gives various Accounts of himself.
 Likewise a Negro Man about the same Height, well set, and very black;
 says he is a Freeman, and at other times says he has a Master, but
 will not tell his Master's Name. The Negro has not any Marks that I

In both England and the American colonies, detailed description was the common method of operation, but the body and its owner were the target, as one account of a London fugitive shows:
 Whereas James Goodman alias Footman, made his Escape (with Irons on,
 by leaping over the Spikes of the Bail-Dock and the Rails) at the
 Sessions-House in the Old Baily, on Saturday last, being the 14th
 Instant, about 6 in the Evening; he is about 37 Years of Age, 5 Foot
 10 Inches high, much Pock-fretten, has many Freckles in his Face and
 Hands, a wide Mouth, down Look, speaks very broad, a reddish beard,
 but did wear a brown Wig, a Carpenter by Trade, and did lately live
 at Aylesbury in Buckinghamshire: He was shot in the Nape of the Neck
 about a month since, when he was taken, which Wound is not yet well,
 and several small Pieces of his Scull taken out of the Wound. Whoever
 can discover the said Person, so that he be brought to Justice, shall
 receive Twenty Pounds Reward from Bodenham Rowse Head Turnkey of
 Newgate. (3)

The need for these careful descriptions was partly because people were not what they seemed. On too many occasions the person facing the authorities was not how they appeared at first glance, particularly with regard to gender--men passed as women, women as men. Sir John's brother Henry knew this all too well, as his authorship of a history of one of the various "female husbands" of the century shows, a woman who, dressed as a man, had married at least twice. The army and the navy were continually reporting female recruits, or rather, males who turned out to have female bodies. (4) In other circumstances men were "discovered" under the guise of women--such as John Cooper, otherwise known as the Princess Serafima, hanging around the pubs of Drury Lane, involved in a case of theft and homosexual blackmail at the Old Bailey. Other "princesses" apparently possessed the appropriate biology, but not the right identity. (5) This was in many ways a culture of concealment--an "age of disguise," which was consequently obsessed with discovering the "real" person below the surface. All this made bodies, appearances and identities problematic for eighteenth-century society, whose authorities were forced to develop a full language of description that helped readers to identify people. (6) The result is a rich source of representation in which can be found many ordinary men and women, some bizarre and extraordinary, but all provided with a careful description of their appearance, character and style.

In studying this culture of description and advertisement, we need to concentrate less on what the "true" bodies were of individuals or groups, that is, what kinds of bodies they possessed (though that can be interesting enough), but how such bodies were made visible, whether voluntarily or unwillingly, and to whom; how they were described and represented, and who had knowledge of such representations; and finally, what were the features of appearance, clothing and the physical bodies themselves that attracted attention under particular circumstances. The key is processes of inspection, which in many historical periods including our own often involve relationships of unequal power. In the past, as in the present, bodies were kept from view for a variety of social and personal reasons. In part this helps to maintain a secret identity: as a modern study of bodily marks puts it, "the secret self is overtly about visibility. Resistance is produced through the deliberate control of visibility." (7) In many circumstances, however, people are deprived of the right to keep their bodies private. This approach should be no surprise to the more enthusiastic followers of Michel Foucault: it has long been supposed that power and surveillance go together in social relations, and that the bodies and social actions of the relatively powerless are subject to inspection by those in control. Equally, it should be no great revelation to hear that many of those in subordinate positions become accustomed to presenting themselves for that inspection, revealing themselves to the powerful, whether in prisons for strip-searching, in treatment rooms for medical diagnosis, or at the dockside markets for slaves and servants in colonial America. What Foucault and others have neglected is the dimension of dissemination of the details of these inspections. Descriptions of patients are recorded but kept private except when passed to other medical experts, but those of, say, suspected or actual criminals are frequently broadcast as widely as possible to alert the public.

A key problem, historically as much as today, is the audience for particular types of bodily knowledge. This is easily understood if the focus of analysis here were dead bodies rather than live ones. The corpses of executed criminals were made available through professional dissection, a process which in provincial England was often carried out in front of the "gentlemen of the town," and the accumulated results published in the medical literature. Dissection of the hanged remained both a source of public contention and outright conflict in some places such as London where the criminals were championed by the poor, because the destruction of the body necessitated by dissection (which under the 1752 Murder Act in England meant that there was no burial, as the bones were kept for scientific study), added further horror to the already theatrical character of punishment. (8) The habit of dissection, however, did establish in the minds of the literate the idea that social reality--and the consequences of a particular way of life--were to some extent written on the body, and that if the truth about someone was to be obtained, the body was the first place to start. Ludmilla Jordanova points to the way Jules Michelet began his studies of women--in the dissection room. The body, as Karen Harvey has argued, was an obsession because it supposedly contained clues to people's "true" identity. (9)

With regard to live bodies in earlier times, however, neither the processes of inspection nor those of publication are as easy to map as in the case of judicial dissection. Bodies were not as openly visible as in the twenty-first century, when they are apparently ubiquitous (or some people's at least) in many different media. It is important to note that the bodies of the powerful and the socially weak in the eighteenth century were presented differently and were available for scrutiny in contrasting ways. The ideal rich body was scarcely visible at all for most of the eighteenth century: most men and women of the aristocracy managed to cover their skin with powder and patch, and not even the hair (at least on men) was their own. In the age of smallpox, blemishes could be hidden, and the richer sections of society used many different methods to veil or redesign the physical. Thus money and privilege allowed the maintenance of a sophisticated "social skin" appropriate to their class. (10) As Lord Chesterfield commented, "dress is a very foolish thing; and yet it is a very foolish thing for a man not to be well dressed, according to his rank and way of life." So we conform to conventional styles, according to our gender and social status, according to the current rules of dress. This culture, however, whether of bodily decoration or clothing, is paradoxical, being both bound by social rules yet offering possibilities of individual expressions of identity: we conform, but also seek to express our individual taste and character. (11)

In contrast to the culture of the rich, the bodies of the early modern poor were surprisingly visible and widely publicised in the spreading print culture, even when they were still alive. Indeed, as we shall see, it is their very liveliness that brings them into view: the poor, the criminal, the deserter from army or navy, the runaway slave or servant, were viewed and described precisely because they were not tame and obedient. Later in the eighteenth century, and subsequently, systematic official records were kept of individuals swept up and contained by institutions, such as hospitals, workhouses and jails. These detailed accounts of the troublesome form the basis for some of the most interesting histories of the poor and the criminal. For the first time, the official record was designed to achieve total knowledge of people and their characters. What characterises the period before about 1780 on both sides of the Atlantic, by contrast, is that the published account, rather than the bureaucratic file, is the primary source of evidence. (12)

The visibility of people's bodies therefore varied greatly with class and gender, as well as race, as did the constraints on their powers of self-definition and self-representation. There are two principles dominating the analysis here. Firstly, that the bodies of subordinated groups were more visible to those who ruled, owned or controlled them, and could therefore be made known to a wider "public" through representations of different kinds in private and public communications (mostly printed). Secondly, that a comparison of some key relationships of subordination on both sides of the Atlantic in the eighteenth century could usefully show some contrasts in the visibility and representation of subordinate bodies in two closely related but significantly different societies. Bodies, here, are somewhat generously or vaguely defined, in the light of the earlier discussion, to include all elements of physical self-presentation, including clothes, and other aspects of dress, but the core is the underlying biology--beneath, but not more "real," than its coverings. It has been argued in the archaeological context that "dress is an embodying activity, as costume ornamentation leads to modification of the body itself," and certainly it can be easily seen that costume and decoration are one of the forms in which social action is embodied. (13) This is therefore the study of just some of the settings and social relationships in which such representation of bodies was possible and was subject to recording and publication, and of the audience at which the accounts were directed.

The Bodies in the Papers

Advertisements, given their necessary concision, had to be expressed clearly and with a kind of verbal shorthand so that readers could instantly grasp the mental picture. The obvious features to comment on were those most visible to observers and most likely to lead to confident identification by the reading public. One obvious feature was the nature of the person's skin--both in terms of its colour and general complexion. There were variations in the extent to which languages of "race" and colour were used: for example, in the colonies, there was some confusion caused by black or brown "Europeans" and by white "mulattoes." These distinctions were generally lost on the British press, who reflected the very different language of colour in England. Standard phrases such as "of a black complexion" were used in British newspapers without the overtones of the racialized hierarchical language of the American colonies. (14) More commonly, the descriptions in the English press talked of people of a "dark complexion" or appearing "swarthy," though the latter, usually applied to men, may have had more to do with their poorly shaved state (given that they were also dark-haired) than actual skin colour. Dirt and "blackness" were associated with coal miners and their living conditions--and with whole towns, in fact, in some descriptions of northeast England. (15)

Instances of this kind of language are plentiful. The Newcastle Courant in 1738, for example, displayed an advertisement for George Weldon of Winlaton, County Durham, who had abandoned his wife and two children: he was described as having a black visage. Another, for apprentice John Leviston, running away from his master in Gateshead, described him as about 17 years of age, "a thin youth," "blackeyed, with a ruddy complexion and had on when he went away a dark-coloured wigg and a dark-coloured Drab-Coat." In 1740, Margery Yeoman, aged about 25, had broken out of Morpeth jail with three others: she was "of a low stature, black complexion, and had on a Jersey Gown of red and green Colours." One of her fellow escapees, Scotsman George Scongald, had by contrast a "pale complexion." In this way complexion and colour were interchangeably portrayed. (16)

In the colonies American newspapers merged some of these terms with a careful classification of both racial differences and racial mixing. Some Englishmen caused difficulties through their appearance as much as their insubordination. In the Maryland Gazette in 1756, Richard Lovewell, a servant aged 50, ran way and was advertised as an East Indiaman, "and very black, who says he was born in England." Others were not as obviously different in terms of geographic origin, but could not be clearly classified. In the same paper in September 1767, three English gypsies, all convicts, Joseph Smith, "an old man," William his brother, and John, Joseph's son, were reported as having run away from Thomas Samuel's and John Snowden's Patuxent Ironworks. Joseph was described as being a "swarthy mulatto in colour," and son John "nearly the same complexion with that of his father." (17) Having imported the Hispanic usage of "negro" and "mulatto," most British colonies found the solution to the ambiguity of the latter in merging the two together. (18) Nevertheless, outside these specialised terms for slaves, there are some usages in the colonial newspapers which parallel those of the English press, but perhaps rather more obscurely. For example, in 1754 the Maryland Gazette advertised the fact that William Jupp had escaped from the convict ship Greyhound at the ferry branch of Patapsco River: he was apparently "a dark ill-looking fellow." (19) Similar language was used about other convicts, though with the second of the cases below, the wooden leg would have been more likely to have betrayed its owner:
 RUN away from the subscriber, in Dumfries, on the 21st of October,
 three servant men, viz. JOSEPH FISHER, a convict and tailor, about 5
 feet 6 or 7 inches high, dark visage, down look, and has a scar on
 his upper lip; had on a blue broadcloth coat and jacket, with metal
 buttons, white fustian breeches, and pinchbeck buckles. WILLIAM
 BOOTH, a convict and sailor, about 5 feet 5 or 6 inches high, has a
 wooden leg, which he endeavours to hide with trousers, is pitted with
 the smallpox, of a dark complexion, and has very black hair. He has
 sundry cloaths with him. (20)

This is the only usage of "dark visage" for convicts in the Virginia Gazette advertisements, but in a few cases there are several comments on convicts' "black complexion" with regard to evidently white convict Europeans--several of them of Irish origin. As the following advertisement shows, however, it was also common to note how brown their faces were:
 RUN away from the Subscribers, at Mr. Lewis Ball's, the 14th of
 October, at Night, five Convict Servant Men, who were taken the Day
 before from on Board the Taylor, at Four Mile Creek, viz. OLIVER
 MARTIN, 22 Years of Age, five Feet ten Inches high, of a brown
 Complexion, born in Ireland, is pert and looks well, and by Trade a
 House Carpenter and Joiner; he had on an old brown Coat, and red
 Waistcoat and Trousers. JONATHAN BOOTHMAN, an Englishman, 23 Years of
 Age, five Feet five Inches high, of a dark brown Complexion, and a
 thievish Look; he had on a white Cotton Waistcoat, and Trousers. PAUL
 PRESTON, a Pennsylvanian, thirty Years of Age, five Feet high, of a
 sandy Complexion, and good Countenance; he had on a blue Waistcoat,
 and black Everlasting Breeches. JOHN THOMPSON, born in New England,
 35 Years of Age, five Feet four Inches high, of a black Complexion
 and surly Look; he had on a blue Waistcoat, another of Cotton, black
 Breeches, and Trousers. JOHN GAGAHAGAN, an Irishman, five Feet four
 Inches high, 43 Years of Age, of a black Complexion, is a well
 looking Man, and by trade a Grocer; he had on a light coloured Coat,
 blue Waistcoat, and Leather Breeches. The four first are Seamen. (21)

It may be significant that these men were seamen, with the evident effect of some years in the tropics, perhaps, written on their faces. Equally, it is interesting that they were noticeable in this way to Chesapeake masters who were themselves satirized in Ebenezer Cook's early eighteenth-century The Sot-Weed Factor as being themselves of a "tawny" colour--"In Hue as tawny as a Moor," in fact. (22) Despite the satire, some Americans were highly sensitive to being thought of as being of mixed race or at least "tawny": James Otis in 1764 spoke of North America as having been settled not by a "compound mongrel mixture" but "freeborn British white subjects," and Benjamin Franklin noted that the number of "purely white People in the world is proportionately very small," the rest being "chiefly tawny." (23) Nevertheless, it is indeed likely that acclimatization to the colonies and the sea may have involved changes in general skin colour for many pallid Europeans, a change to a condition that might be misinterpreted. A number were described as sun-burnt:
 Fredericksburg, July 24, 1751. RAN away from the Subscriber, last
 Night, a Convict Servant Man, named Edward Basten, of a middle Age
 and Stature, stoops forward in his Walk: he is bald headed, and
 pretty Smooth faced, but somewhat Sun-burnt: he may pretend to be a
 Sailor, having been on Board a Man of War; speaks plain English, and
 his Voice is strong. (24)

Other descriptions suggest doubt about the precise racial background of runaways, indicating perhaps that in some individual cases the system of racial classification had been difficult to use with any great precision:
 RAN away from the Subscriber living in King George County ... Charles
 Ken-well, is a well-set Man, of a dark Complexion, almost like a
 Mulatto, is an Englishman, and has on his Arm the two initial Letters
 of his Name burnt with Gunpowder. (25)

Some of those of intermediary colour had origins in the colonies, but had travelled the Atlantic world--one runaway in 1768, was a "mulatto fellow" named Jack, who "was born in the West-Indies, and imported in the Justitia in 1764 from London," a convict like the two white men who were his fellow escapees. (26)

Much attention was paid to the appearance of the hair as an indication of African origin, but in general this was one of the more visible aspects of people's self-presentation. For women, hair colour was a primary form of identification (if unpowdered), while only men wore wigs in a variety of styles and colours, disguising their own hair. George Eaton, who ran away with Jack, was described as "of a fair complexion, wears his own hair, which is short and fair, and sometimes wears a false curl, which a stranger would not know from his hair, being exactly of a colour." This was a rare example of false and real hair mixed together, the curl being the most popular addition. (27) Much attention was paid as to whether the advertised wore their own hair, and in describing how they wore it. In the colonies, servants were noted if they "wore their own black hair untied," or had hair which "curls in his neck," or "a large bushy head of dark coloured hair." (28) Contrasts were particularly useful for identification: a Yorkshire suspect was advertised in the North of England as one John Thompson, aged about 33, who "wears a light coloured wig, his own hair black," while his companion Charles Berry wore a similar wig, though his own hair was dark brown. Four apprentice weavers in 1761 were noted as being "all in their own hair." Natural hair was therefore distinctive, and it may be for that reason that early ia legislation had suggested cutting the normal long hair of servants very short as a distinctive mark of having been punished for running away. (29)

Most commonly, men disguised their true hair with wigs, and this raises one unexplored aspect of wigs, namely the class dimension: to what extent did ordinary workers wear them? They are frequently mentioned as an aspect of people's appearance, and may have been badges of respectability for many men. In part, this was one aspect of servants apeing their betters--an accusation often raised against them in popular representations of the time, such as the play High Life Below Stairs of 1759. It was recognized that through their intimacy with their betters in great households servants had become familiar with the "rituals of costuming, the cultivation of gesture." Given cast-off clothing by their masters and mistresses, and sometime dressed in distinctive livery as a means of showing off the household's grand status, costume was "a particularly revealing indication of the servant's unusual and ambiguous status. If they worked in a wealthy household, the upper servants were often better dressed than their relations who were not in service." (30) In many provincial towns, and in the colonies, though, there were few grand households, nor ones of extravagant display, but nevertheless their servants would have been different from, say, the working servants

of taverns and workshops. In north-east England, in fact, missing servants were the least likely to be described as wearing wigs--wanted criminals and deserters were significantly more likely to be so portrayed, about a fifth of them in fact. (31) This may be the consequence of age, in part, since soldiers and criminals tended to be older than other runaways: although nowhere expressed as a rule or an explicit rite of passage, it is likely that before they were twenty, most men attempted to acquire this badge of maturity. Some apprentices as young as seventeen wore wigs, and many were wearing them by the time they were nineteen. It is possible that, instead of putting their hair "up," as women might have done on maturity, men cut theirs short or shaved it off entirely. (32) Occupations may also have varied in their use of wigs, but skilled men in particular seem to have adopted them. For example, the Newcastle Courant in April 1774 reported that a man called Thomas Oliver aged 35 years of age had "absented himself from his house in North Shields, without any just cause." He was of
 middle stature, brown complexion, by trade a shipwright, had on when
 he went away a blue waistcoat, a pair of long trowsers, a grey wig
 and round hat, being his working dress, remarkable for having a dint
 on his forehead just under his wig, and a crooked forefinger.

If anyone had information on the missing man, they were to send it to Isabella Oliver care of the Bull's Head, North Shields--his wife presumably. Such domestic intimacy may have given this advertisement a more than usually detailed physical description: a wife should at least know what was hidden under a wig, even if others such as workmates did not. (33)

In the colonies, customs are even more difficult to define clearly. Convicts seem to have been smartened up in order to be sold, and this would include their hair and wigs if they had them. (34) Significantly, perhaps, relatively few are ever described as having wigs. London criminal Richard Kibble ran away wearing a "black natural wig," and others were described as wearing a "bob wig" (presumably short, and therefore not too hot to wear in the American summer). More attention was paid to hats in the colonial papers, with a much fuller language of description than in England. (35) Wigs were probably not common among the working poor, and least of all among indentured servants. (36) Nevertheless, they were one aspect of European culture that some servants and convicts tried to maintain, and, together with their retention of as much finery as they could, may have formed part of the attempt by the subordinate to retain their identities in their own ways. English clothes, or Scottish shoes, were carefully noted in descriptions which contrasted them to items which were "country made" (that is, made in the colonies). In this respect, the white working population resembled their African fellow-workers, in both trying to retain something of their shared background and simultaneously sustaining a level of individuality. In producing too impressive an individual appearance, though, they stood the danger of being easily recognised. (37)

More individual still, and more useful for identification, were the descriptions of the styles of the body itself, in terms of movement and of presentation of the person. These aspects were described as both a matter of personal habit and a reflection of the personality: "He has an odd Way of walking that he makes Use of when he gets in Company to drinking, and seems to go almost on his Knees," it was noted of one Irish convict servantman, who pretended to "understand the Sailor's business." Another was described as walking "nimbly," something that was presumably impossible for William Booth described earlier, with his wooden leg. Such unalterable features were noted, as in the case of John Farrell, whose "Legs seem to be swelled, and he stoops much and walks badly." (38) As physical impairments or distinguishing features (large noses, small legs, big hands) were difficult to hide, they were vital to note and publicise. An unusually detailed description of a woman in an English advertisement drew a graphic picture:
 A woman, seemingly between 26 and 30 years of age, who called herself
 Mary Forster, pretty tall and fat, large breasts, and big belly, as
 If with child, born at or near Hawick in Northumberland, black hair
 and eyebrows, absented herself from her service with Richard
 Atkinson, of Bishop-Wearmouth, in the County of Durham, innholder,
 and hath robb'd him of a considerable sum of money. (39)

General demeanour was rather different, making up less of a physical characteristic than a mental attitude, and perhaps more difficult to describe. Northumberland weaver Andrew Young was described in America as "an impudent fellow" and this was typical of some of the bolder colonial servants. William Lee, by trade a cooper, for example, was physically and attitudinally distinct--"marked with the Smallpox, has a remarkable large Nose, speaks thick, and is impudent." Another had "a very impudent look." (40) Others had a more modest style--a "down look" or a "hanging look," suggesting a determined reluctance to meet the eyes of their masters. Some English runaways appeared like this--such as soldier John Elly, who escaped from Berwick jail (where he and a comrade had been locked up on suspicion of theft), characterised by his "down look." Such descriptions were much more common in the colonial press, perhaps because, like slaves, servants had learned to understand that looking someone in the face appeared as what the British army would in the twentieth century describe as "dumb insolence." (41)

In addition, there were distinguishing marks on hands and faces, blemishes on skin or in the eyes, and impairments. Marks left by birth or lived experience formed indelible records, so their accurate description was held to provide evidence of apparently unchangeable physical identities. They were of diverse origin: these could be early tattooed forms of self-expression, or the results of particular types of work, reinforcing the identity of someone as a sailor or miner, or servant. With distinctive clothes and ways of walking, for example, a seaman was instantly recognizable. In northern England, the same was true of miners, and probably some farmworkers. (42) If work left involuntary signs of harsh experience, this was no less true of the results of the exercise of authority, mostly by forms of corporal punishment: these were official marks. Notable in England by their absence are comments on brands or whipping marks inflicted by the judicial process or private discipline. It is impossible to believe that no one was arrested carrying the result of judicial branding, for example, but it seems that this was either very rare or never mentioned in print. (43) This is in great contrast to the situation described by Clare Anderson for British colonial rules in nineteenth-century India, where the marks of criminality were inscribed by the judicial authorities on the face (by tattoos). Though branding on the face was tried in England's courts in the 1690s and early 1700s before being abandoned, it seems that in the colonies only slaves were so branded (or advertised as such) in the eighteenth century. For example, advertised in Philadelphia was one mulatto slave called Dave, owned by Henry Miller, "branded on the forehead with the letter M." This may have been a brand inflicted by the master himself, probably after an escape attempt. In 1766 Virginian Robert Munford advertised that a "fellow named Jack," involved in "promoting the late disorderly meetings among the Negroes," had run off for fear of being prosecuted for many felonies. He had red eyes, and had been branded with "R" on one cheek, and "M" on the other. Another master admitted that he had branded his own initials on a slave who had been away more than a year. Women were not immune from this, as Edward Rutland's slave 22-year old Annis, described as "very cunning" when she ran away, was branded "E" and "R" on her cheeks. These marks could be obscured, but some endured: in 1775 a slave called Charles, "of the Indian breed," was described as having been branded by his late master Robert Temple with "the letters R and T, one on each Cheek." (44)

In the colonies, both black slaves and white convict runaways are described as having been "burnt in the hand," as the result of a judicial sentence for felony. In England and America, branding on the thumb was a standard non-capital sentence for those granted benefit of clergy after conviction for many crimes such as grand larceny. In England after 1718, the penalty could be replaced by transportation, which suggests that an ironic situation arose whereby some criminals escaped it in England only to suffer it in America. (45)
 RAN away from the Subscriber, living in King William County, an Irish
 Convict Servant Man, named Billy Hughes, a short well-set Fellow,
 full-fac'd, and fresh-colour'd, with a Scar near his right Temple ...
 This fellow ran away from the Subscriber last June, and was taken in
 Louisa County for Robbery, and burnt in the Hand last December Court,
 by the Name of Thomas Lester (in Williamsburg): and I suppose will
 change his Name again. As his being transported, and afterwards burnt
 in the Hand, discovers what a notorious Villain he is, I hope no
 Person will suffer him to escape. Whoever apprehends and secures the
 above Fellow, shall have Half a Pistole Reward, besides what the Law
 allows. Thomas Dansie. (46)

Some were confirmed as having several previous convictions as well as grounds for present suspicion: these had fled from justice, according to the keeper of the public jail in Williamsburg, Virginia--
 For the information of all whom it may concern, I give this public
 notice, that JAMES M'DONALD (or M'DANIEL) labourer, EDWARD SWENEY,
 butcher, EDWARD LUPTON, shoemaker, and PATRICK RYAN, were, on the
 17th of this present month, brought to the bar of the general court,
 then sitting, to take their trials for a supposed murder, by them
 committed in Pittsylvania county, where they were apprehended. Ryan
 was sworn as a witness, and the other three being convicted of
 manslaughter, were burnt in the hand. It appearing to the court that
 they were accused of a certain felony in the province of North
 Carolina, they were remanded to gaol. They were transported to this
 country as convicts.

Another runaway servant, John Freelove, though not clearly described as a transported convict, had clearly been in trouble with the law--"he is a great Rogue, and has been burnt in the Hand." There is an interesting linguistic distinction being applied in the advertisements of the Virginia Gazette and other colonial newspapers: criminals were "burnt" by the judicial sentence on the hand, reflecting the legal usage, while only horses and slaves were "branded" elsewhere on their bodies. (47)

Private whipping was sometimes admitted freely in the advertisements for white servants in the colonies, something that was certainly socially impossible in England by the eighteenth century (except for apprentices and very young servants, perhaps, and seafarers). A Scottish convict running away from his master in Hanover County (Virginia), was unusual in a number of respects: he wore "his hat cocked three ways; he is well clothed in Virginia cloth, his coat and breeches are filled in with blue wool double wove, has good shoes and stockings." But, his master observed, since "I gave him a small flogging some time ago, which will appear by looking at his back," he could be identified. Other portrayals were more careful to attribute the whipping to judicial sentencing by a court, or just punishment for running away. One Charles Sawyer, a convict servantman, was "whipped for running away, and the marks are still to be seen," it was said by his owner. More cautiously, a mulatto woman was reported to have been whipped by order of the court, and "may possibly have the marks on her back." (48) These marked bodies, black and white, indicate a common pattern of experience of private and public discipline in the colonies, one which shared many features with the situation in England. This is hardly surprising: it has been argued that many official colonial customs had their origins in sixteenth- and seventeenth-century penal practices towards vagrants and servants. In the colonial context, though, most practices directed towards slaves were aimed at reinforcing the fundamental distinction between chattel and free. This was true of both the West Indian and the American slave colonies. The facial branding had a particular colonial purpose, as it did in nineteenth-century India. More importantly, colonial practices indicated a different form of legitimate violence. It seems that by the eighteenth century adult servants in Britain would not be subjected to private corporal punishment, and certainly not to branding. In the colonies, it was the private character of legitimate violence that was so distinctive. In Britain by contrast, the state--in the form of the magistrates and the courts--had already achieved a near-monopoly of legitimate violence. (49)

In addition to the marks inflicted by others, the bodies of the troublesome were often portrayed as having been inscribed with signs, symbols, letters and names. Many of these signs constituted private mementoes and memorials, expressions of faith and loyalties, and others were expresssions of identity. Some were clearly highly visible, while others, it can be inferred, were meant to be kept secret from a general public. These voluntary marks were a significant form of self expression, and were developed before the word "tattoo" became known. Tattooing itself has been the focus of much discussion by historians involved in the analysis of late eighteenth- and nineteenth-century official records of the bodies of convicts, as well as those of the poor and distressed. One standard interpretation is that the tattoo grew as part of seafaring culture following the reports from the South Seas of native tattooing, and became a part of bodily modification by the middle of the nineteenth century. (50) The earlier accounts in eighteenth-century newspapers suggest that there was at least a nascent subculture of bodily marking among men and women well before that time, though there are problems of comparison and interpretation in generalising in this way. In England in 1739, for example, one young convicted thief was described as
 a Rogue of about 15 years of age convicted of stealing Weights out of
 Sadler's Shop in the Borough, from a Natural Propensity to Villainy,
 [who] had on his Breast, mark'd with Indian ink, the Poutraiture of a
 Man at length, with a Sword drawn in one Hand and a Pistol
 discharging Balls from the Muzzle in the other, with a Label from the
 Man's Mouth, G-d d-amn you, stand. This the Rogue would have
 conceal'd, but a Discovery being made thereof, he was order'd to shew
 his Breast to the Court, who were all shock'd at so uncommon a Sight
 in so young a Ruffian. (51)

This was a very detailed--and pointed--visual narrative, and the owner was clearly known by the picture as well as his crimes. In other cases, too, the images and the actions were closely associated. London criminal Richard Kibble, on running away from his master in Virginia was described as having "several Marks made with Gunpowder on his Arms, but particularly one on his Breast, being the Figures of a Woman and a Cherry-Tree." His companion, whose name was John "but Sirname forgot," was distinguished by being "pretty tall," a Kentishman, and was "supposed to have the Figure of our Saviour mark'd with Gunpowder on one of his Arms." Kibble was described a year later when he yet again ran away (having in the meantime returned to England from where he was transported once more) as being marked by "a great many Letters and Figures on his Breast and Left Arm, some in red and some in black." (52) Such detailed inscriptions on the body are rarely seen, but there were many on the more visible arms of runaways. For example, shipscarpenter John Thomas from Annapolis had both some letters and a representation of "our Saviour" on one arm, and a picture of Adam and Eve on the other. William Roberts or Simmons had "letters on one of his hands marked by gunpowder, and on one of his arms a darted heart, and on the other arm this name, 'Mary Roberts'". (53) These are unusual pictorial representations, some in colour, which later in the eighteenth century would be called "tattoos." At this period it seems the colours were few, and the favourite (and the easiest) form of marking involved letters, sometimes with simple figures such as crosses and hearts: these remained popular in the culture of tattoos among seamen and others into the nineteenth century. (54) In these most personal markings, the runaways, criminals and other troublesome people created signs of their own lives and values, in effect a kind of narrative of their own. (55)

Who was made public in the culture of advertisement?

Being seen, and being defined as troublesome, are not the same thing as being made visible--that is, being published. The printed culture of advertisements and reports were just the most public face of wider processes of surveying and controlling people. Informal methods and local alerts almost certainly preceded public advertisement, and were probably the most common reactions to crimes, runaways or the sight of suspicious persons in the neighbourhood. In some advertisements quite a time had elapsed between disappearance and publication, suggesting that the newspaper notice was in some cases almost the last resort. It is probable that many masters of slaves, servants or apprentices hoped for a return without official measures. (56) However, when employers became convinced that subordinates had been away for long enough to indicate that the absence was serious, they turned to the newspapers. The bulk of runaway advertisements in the Virginia and Maryland press dealt with slaves and servants, while those appearing in the Pennsylvania press included not only runaways from the southern colonies but also many apprentices from Philadelphia and other towns. (57) Patterns of surveillance and suspicion were rather different in the British press, as a greater variety of people leaving their duties was made public: deserters from the armed forces, wives or husbands abandoning their domestic obligations, as well as servants and apprentices. In addition, there were many suspected or actual criminals, mostly vagrants seen wandering, or arrested and escaping from custody. There were roughly equal numbers of these supposed criminals, runaway apprentices or servants, and deserters, in the papers of north-east England. In smaller numbers, there were other categories of missing persons, children or parents, and spouses who had alone or with others decamped from the household. (58) The initial impression therefore is that English newspapers contained a changeable mixture of military deserters, apprentices, servants, convicts, paupers and vagrants, and wandering spouses. There might be some variation between years, with deserters most common in wartime, for example, but in general there would be relatively few regional variations. Notices in the colonial newspapers, however, varied according to the local economy of the colony. In Virginia and further south, there were few apprentices to run away, and the advertisements reflected the employment of slaves and both free and convict servants. In Pennsylvania, New York or New England, there were many apprentices and ordinary servants. In general, military deserters were far fewer than in England, and would also be found mostly in times of war.

The dominance of "unfreedom" in the colonies, and the need to control the unfree, particularly slaves and convict servants, might lead to the conclusion that colonial society was far more likely to be in a state of constant alert, perpetually suspicious of those thought to be in need of control. Certainly some of the colonial legislation has a Foucaultian air--"How to Know a Runaway Servant" was the title of one Virginian Act of 1659. (59) In a society where the majority of immigrants, forced or free, African or European, came into some kind of servitude, such alertness was an inherent part of everyday social relations in households or communities. English servant William Moraley, though he had served his time, and was legitimately going home to England from Pennsylvania passing through New Jersey, was continually arrested and interrogated as a runaway servant. In his view it was incredibly difficult if not impossible for runaways to be successful in America because people were so much on the alert, and so well rewarded for catching runaways. This was a society that depended not only on the appearance of obedience or deference, but their systematic reinforcement. (60) If running away was an act of defiance in colonial society for slaves and servants alike, it was equally so in the context of British society in the eighteenth century. European societies had long adopted policies of controlled geographic mobility, dominated by deep mistrust of those outside relations of subordination--the "masterless men" of sixteenth-century vagrancy. In seventeenth-century England and Wales, the Acts of Settlement had enforced the welfare provision for inhabitants under the poor law, but only in the parishes where they had legal right to belong. Returning--"removing"--vagrants back to their place of settlement then became a standard method of dealing with many strangers, even if no offence had been committed. They were "passed" to their place of settlement, much as their colonial contemporaries were given a pass to move about the colony. Those who could not--or would not--"give an account of themselves" to the authorities were particularly suspected of having left another place without good reason, or to have been committing offences of begging and pilfering. (61) In England and Wales there was a particular reason for recalling people to their proper place--the poor law costs of their absence:
 Absconded, from his wife and family at Morpeth, some days ago, Gawen
 Cowans shoemaker; he is about five feet six inches high, the left leg
 small and lame, black bearded, long visaged, fully eyed, wears his
 own black hair, dull of speech, about 40 years old; he is supposed to
 be in the northern part of the county of Northumberland. It is
 particularly desired that none will harbour or employ him, that he
 may be compelled to return to his wife and family (62)

This was placed by the parish authorities who were faced with the prospect of having to pay for the maintenance of his family. Men like this created welfare problems for parishes where their families had rights of settlement. It was for this reason that strangers bringing new burdens on communities would find themselves arrested and interrogated as to the whereabouts of their place of settlement, and deserting fathers had to be restored to avoid further costs. The family here was a matter of financial responsibility as much as a moral institution, and the local welfare state depended on everyone being in their rightful place if expenditure was to be contained. (63)

The contrast in patterns of surveillance between Britain and its colonies was therefore perhaps more apparent than real, for both relied on knowledge of the bodies and appearances of subordinate groups to control them. In both contexts, it was widely recognized that accurate inspection, description and the circulation of representations were essential to any successful policy of containing the poor and the deviant. There was a culture of careful surveillance before it could be a culture of advertisement. However, since visibility depended on being looked at, the "gaze" of suspicion and inspection reflected different levels and forms of "respectable fear" on different sides of the Atlantic. (64) Both societies were mistrustful of uncontained wanderers, though the colonies had few institutions in which to incarcerate the vagrant poor. The consequences are plain in the contrasting sources of the advertisements: far more British notices were taken out by county clerks, jailers and workhouse keepers than in the American colonies. With a full range of institutions established in most county towns--jails, houses of correction, and workhouses, and even more developing after 1750, such as lunatic asylums, most English counties possessed a greater variety of means of incarceration than existed in the colonies. There were some exceptions, such as Philadelphia, but in colonies such as Virginia and Maryland, the public lock-ups were not big enough to cope with large numbers of inmates. (65) Moreover, the contrasting origins of official anxiety, shared by many of the public, lay not so much in the mobility of the poor as in the challenge to authority that lay behind it. A wandering pauper in England was an administrative problem and perhaps a financial inconvenience, even a threat to the peace of mind of nervous communities: a runaway slave in Virginia was a challenge to the very basis of society's productive economy and social control. (66)

The trends in surveillance and description, however, were inexorably moving in the same direction on both sides of the Atlantic--towards the rise of the state, or at least, the growing dominance of the record file generated by local officials. There were different reasons for these developments, however. In Britain, by the second half of the eighteenth century, as criminals seemed to operate nationally (and in returning from America, internationally), the authorities became concerned that they did not have the administrative and communication system to respond to them successfully. The process of publication of criminal intelligence became more systematic, replacing the rather haphazard pattern of advertisements, reports and official correspondence. The idea was put simply in Bristol in 1763 in a letter to the printer:
 The desperate gang now in custody at Coventry, the greatest part of
 which are supposed to have returned from Transportation, will greatly
 puzzle the Magistrates of that City, for want of a proper description
 of their persons, and as there is not in any of the Goals in this
 Kingdom any Description Book kept, consequently many of them will
 escape that punishment justly due to their audacious [blank]. (67)

The letter went on to recommend that the county Sheriffs should keep a
 description book of all convicted of any crimes from the highest
 felony to petty larceny, and to enter therein all the features and
 particular Marks (if any) of the Body, Arms and Leggs, by searching
 them to the Skin: Could such descriptions now be had the villains at
 Coventry would soon meet with their Deserts.

The emphasis on the ineradicable marks on the skin is very striking, and the reactions to a recent crisis (the wholesale destruction of the Coventry gang that summer by Alderman John Hewitt) provided the pretext. It is possible that Hewitt was the anonymous author. However, the proposal which had the greatest practical effect came from Hewitt's greatest rival, Sir John Fielding of Bow Street magistrates' court in London. In November there were advertisements in newspapers throughout the country expressing concern that cheats and felons were escaping from London, and Sir John required detailed information on all suspicious persons committed to the local gaols so that he could identify any of those wanted for crimes in London. In exchange, he provided information on suspects and those he had arrested in his turn. (68) This became a kind of national system of "hue and cry" which in north-east England inspired one newspaper in 1772 to create a whole section on its front page devoted to wanted criminals, suspected people under arrest and other useful descriptive information which served to alert the public to likely dangers. (69) In 1773 Fielding requested that his notices be displayed as widely as possible, and in the County of Northumberland the authorities-reported:
 This Court received a letter from Sir John Fielding, inclosing his
 plan for the more speedy detection and apprehending of offenders,
 which was unanimously approved of by all the Justices of the Peace
 then present, who came to a resolution to give all the assistance in
 their power towards carrying it into effectual [action], as far as
 their jurisdiction extends; and for that purpose, ordered several
 copies of the list of offenders now at large, sent them by Sir John
 Fielding, to be immediately printed and dispersed throughout the
 county, and to be sent particularly to all the constables and other
 peace officers, and to be fixed upon the doors of all churches,
 chapels and other houses for religious worship, and also upon the
 cross in every market town within this county. By Order, J. French,
 Deputy Clerk of the Peace. (70)

The result was that posters concerning criminals wanted in London could be found on church doors more than 300 miles away. Certainly there were several examples of the success of this scheme. Criminals were arrested in the North East, and returned to London for trial, conviction and execution. A burglar called Holdsworth Hill, for example, was reported in custody in Newcastle. He had been advertised in the the General Hue and Cry as a "housebreaker and suspected of several late burglaries committed in and around London and Kent." He was searched, and a quantity of plate, several medals, some snuff boxes, and other trinkets, were found on him. Subsequent editions provided the story of his trial and eventual execution in London for stealing 1400 ounces of silver plate. (71) This kind of achievement in a form of national criminal intelligence depended on the goodwill of local magistrates and the initiative of Fielding. When arrangements broke down, he could complain peevishly, because in sending out his criminal descriptions he also expected in return that county gaolers would send him the details of their prisoners. (72) By this time the community had come to mean, at least, the whole of England, and weekly descriptions circulated via London across the country. Nothing approaching this kind of national system of intelligence was attempted for decades in America, and even in Britain in the eighteenth century it remained in the hands of particularly energetic and influential individual figures in law enforcement. In slave societies such detailed files continued to be held in the private hands of employers, where people were viewed as property to be known, monitored and controlled--seen as both humans and objects. (73)

From Private Knowledge to the Official Record

The days of such private knowledge of others' bodies were numbered. If the eighteenth century was the age of disguise, then the nineteenth became the age of official identities. The dangers of personal misrepresentation had dominated the earlier period, and private inspection was a central defence against deception, but from roots in the institutions of late eighteenth-century towns and industrial areas grew forms of official record that culminated in the photograph and the fingerprint. The lesson had been learnt that only the body was an unalterable record. (74) This was not a uniform process, if only because the patterns of social relations and their attendant forms of institutional incarceration differed greatly until the end of the nineteenth century. As Michael Hindus suggested a quarter of a century ago, the newly independent United States contained widely contrasting societies, with different forms of criminal law, criminalization, and punishment. The same was true of the extraordinary range of societies encompassed by the still-growing British Empire after 1800. Many of the old elements survived, not least the punishments of bodily pain, and the private scrutiny of the "owner" of the person and their body. So there was no unilinear abandonment of the old habits: in America, slavery still involved whipping and branding (at least until the 1830s), and the penal systems of the northeast found it hard to give up corporal punishment. In Britain and its Empire corporal punishment remained, and in India criminals were marked with tattoos indicating their crimes. (75)

Yet the gradual adoption of disciplined incarceration for the sick, the mad and the deviant--David Rothman's "discovery" of the asylum and its kindred closed institutions--led to systematic bodily inspection and recording for official purposes. As the punishments or treatments increasingly involved creating "docile bodies" for the changing of recalcitrant minds, knowing the bodies of the deviants became part of the science of their character and background rather than a precaution against escape. (76) As Simon Newman observes, "Philadelphia's prison, almshouse and hospital were part of a larger development, in both Europe and America, of a variety of strategies designed to render subordinate bodies passive and then to regulate and even remake these impoverished bodies." Through the files of these institutions, the bodies of the poor were evaluated, and their characters held accountable to the officials of the city. The vagrants were viewed as outsiders, to be collected from the streets, examined, classified and incarcerated. If the plantation was the total institution of the South, the prison or hospital was its equivalent in the North and increasingly the model the state favored. (77) In Britain, too, the prison and the hospital generated detailed files on inmates, and the creation of a state-managed penal colony in Australia after 1786 was sustained by the growth of an increasingly sophisticated system of surveillance and recording of the convicts' bodies. (78) By the 1790s the two Newgates--in London and New York--were keeping detailed records of appearances and character of their inmates. By the 1850s, New York had a rogues gallery of 450 photographs of criminals, while in Britain places as different as urban Birmingham and rural Carmarthen kept photographs of all those sentenced to their jails. (79) Ironically, it was from one of last places to mark criminals, British-ruled India, that a new twist on an old idea--the traditional Asian custom of signing documents with a handprint, led to the idea of fingerprints. With this development the physical became final, because it was supposed that fingerprints, like the later DNA tests, cannot lie. (80)

Keeping these physical records, the state could identify people individually and unquestionably. Instead of having to ask endlessly, "Who is this person?", the official and intellectual question became one of the science of criminality: "What kind of person is this?" (81) In some ways, the bodies of the deviant indicated membership of a whole community of similar people, like the designation of India's "criminal tribes" by the British authorities from 1871 onwards. (82) But confident identification underlay the shift in emphasis, and the person became an object of expert measurement rather than creative self-presentation. As in the earlier private process, there were occasions when the private body was made public, when individuals resisted and escaped. In these altered circumstances, too, passivity was not guaranteed. While being constantly observed and described, there were forms of individuality and self-expression still possible in the worst circumstances, as people used hair, clothes and tattoos to form their own identities. (83) It has been said that bodies "are always in the process of becoming: as open-ended categories, they are amenable to codes that restrict, contain, open or expand them and the cultural and contextual interpretations of their corporeality." (84) Any language of the body therefore offers contradictory meanings and possibilities--there are always struggles over meanings. "The body is not only a site for discipline and training, release and pleasure. It is also a site for resistance to, and transformation of, those conflicted systems of meaning." (85) People were identified by their bodies, but crucially they also identified themselves by the bodies they present to others. What was revealed or hidden, what was altered or marked, or left alone, provided indications--clues, in effect, for others to interpret and form an idea of their chosen identities. Power demanded visibility, but this was not always forthcoming.

The rise of the state and its records did not necessarily mean greater public access: the criminal descriptions of the new penitentiary managers and those running the shipment of convicts to the penal colonies of Australia were not for public eyes. Official meant secret: in Britain, at least, prison records remain embargoed for 100 years. The paradox is therefore that there is no simple evolutionary development, from private to official inspection, from secret to public knowledge. The troublesome person became an object of professional classification: once observed, and made into a recognised type by the new "moral" sciences of criminology and sociology, individuals could be ignored--because they were safely known. "You're invisible now, you've got no secrets to conceal." (86)

School of Arts, Design, Media and Culture

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United Kingdom


An early version of this paper was given at the Anglo-American Conference on "The Body", University of London July 2003.

1. Laura Gowing, Common Bodies: Women, Touch and Power in Seventeenth-Century England (New Haven, CT, 2003); female searchers in each parish were paid for examining the bodies of women admitted to the Bridewell in London, to see if they were "chaste," 44-5; for the inspection of questionable gender and physical sexuality in the early days of the Virginia colony, see Kathleen Brown, "'Changed ... into the fashion of a man': The Politics of Sexual Difference in a Seventeenth-Century Anglo-American Settlement," Journal of the History of Sexuality 6, no. 2 (1995), 171-93.

2. Sir John Fielding, A Plan for Preventing Robberies within Twenty Miles of London, With an Account of the Rise and Establishment of Real Thieftakers (London, A. Millar, 1755), 1.

3. Virginia Gazette (Purdie & Dixon), 29 August 1771; Old Bailey Sessions Papers, 13 January 1715. Note that the original spellings have been retained throughout.

4. Robert Darnton reviewing John Brewer, A Sentimental Murder: Love and Madness in the Eighteenth Century (London, 2004), in New York Review of Books 51, no.11, (June 2004), 63--remarks that in eighteenth-century newspapers, "nothing was quite what it seemed"; Henry Fielding, The Female Husband or the Surprising History of Mrs Mary alias Mr George Hamilton, who was convicted of having married a young woman of Wells and lived with her as her husband, taken from her own mouth since her confinement (London, M. Cooper, 1746).

5. Netta Murray Goldsmith, The Worst of Crimes: Homosexuality and the Law in Eighteenth-Century London (Aldershot, 1998), Chapter 4, particularly 61-3 for descriptions by mostly female witnesses of "her highness"; see case of Sarah Wilson in Gwenda Morgan and Peter Rushton, Eighteenth-Century Criminal Transportation: the Formation of the Criminal Atlantic (Basingstoke, 2004), 85-9; also Mary Carleton, "The German Princess," in The Complete Newgate Calendar, ed. G. T. Crook (London, 1926), vol.1, 249-67, executed as a returned convict, 1673.

6. Diane Dugaw, Warrior Women and Popular Balladry, 1650-1850 (Cambridge, 1989), 122, 133; Julie Wheelright, Amazons and Military Maids: Women who Dressed as Men in the Pursuit of Life, Liberty and Happiness (London, 1989); Rudolf M. Dekker and Lotte C. Van de Pol, The Tradition of Female Transvestism in Early Modern Europe (Basingstoke, 1989).

7. Sharon Cahill and Sarah Riley, "Resistances and Reconciliation: Women and Body Art," in Ali Guy, Eileen Green and Maura Banim, eds, Through the Wardrobe: Women's Relationships with their Clothes (Oxford, 2001), 151-70, 166.

8. The literature on dissection, crime and medicine is very large: see Gwenda Morgan and Peter Rushton, Rogues, Thieves and the Rule of Law: The Problem of Law Enforcement in North-East England, 1718-1800 (London, 1998), 118-20 and 151-2; Douglas Hay, "The Tyburn Riot against the Surgeons," in Douglas Hay et al., eds, Albion's Fatal Tree: Crime and Society in Eighteenth-Century England (London, 1975), 65-117; L. Jordanova, "Natural Facts: a Historical Perspective on Science and Sexuality," in C. P. MacCormack and M.Strathern eds, Nature, Culture and Gender (Cambridge, 1980), 42-69; Londa Schiebinger, "Skeletons in the Closet: the First Illustrations of the Female Skeleton in Eighteenth-Century Anatomy," in her Feminism and the Body (Oxford, 2000), 25-57; Ruth Richardson, Death, Dissection and the Destitute (London, 1988); Thomas Laqueur, "Crowds, Carnivals and the State in English Executions, 1604-1800", in A. L. Beier, D. Cannadine, J. M. Rosenheim, eds, The First Modern Society: Essays in Honour of Lawrence Stone (Cambridge, 1989), 305-55; Florike Egmond, "Execution, Dissection, Pain and Infamy--A Morphological Investigation," in F. Egmond and R. Zwijnenberg, eds, Bodily Extremities: Preoccupations with the Human Body in Early Modern European Culture (London, 2003), 92-127.

9. This was the mid-nineteenth century; see Ludmilla Jordanova, "Natural Facts," 57; also her Sexual Visions: Images of Gender in Science and Medicine between the Eighteenth and Twentieth Centuries (Hemel Hempstead, 1989), 54-65; note that in fiction the pure heroine or hero remains untouched by the harshness of their surroundings or their physical sufferings. De Sade's Justine, and most of Charles Dickens' young heroes, in different ways, remained undamaged: see Thomas Dipiero, "Disfiguring the Victim's Body in de Sade's Justine," in Veronica Kelly and Dorothea Von Mucke, eds, Body and Text in the Eighteenth Century (Stanford, CA, 1994), 247-65; Karen Harvey, "The Century of Sex? Gender, Bodies and Sexuality in the Long Eighteenth Century," Historical Journal 45, no.4 (2002), 899-916, 899.

10. The culture of culturally-approved disguise was only abandoned in the last quarter of the eighteenth century, as new concepts of "nature" became fashionable. Yet the new fashions revealed in class-bound ways both the bodies and the new (superior) sensibilities of the richer classes: see John Brewer, The Pleasures of the Imagination: English Culture in the Eighteenth Century (New York, 1997), 615-61 on changing attitudes to nature.

11. Terence S. Turner, "The Social Skin," in Jeremy Cherfas and Roger Lewin, eds, Not Work Alone: A Cross-Cultural View of Activities Superfluous to Survival, (London, 1980), 112-40, 112-3.

12. See analyses of records of transported criminals by Hamish Maxwell-Stewart and Ian Duffield, "Skin Deep Devotions: Religious Tattoos and Convict Transportation to Australia," in Jane Caplan ed., Written on the Body: the Tattoo in European and American History (London, 2000), 118-135, 128; also H. Maxwell-Stewart and James Bradley, "'Behold the Man': Power, Observation and the Tattooed Convict," Australian Studies 12, no.1 (1997), 71-97; Clare Anderson, Legible Bodies: Race, Criminality and Colonialism in South Asia (Oxford, 2004); Simon Newman, Embodied History: The Lives of the Poor in Early Philadelphia (Philadelphia, PA, 2003).

13. Genevieve Fisher and Diana DiPaolo Loren, "Embodying Identity in Archaeology: Introduction," Cambridge Archaeological Journal 13, no.2 (2003), 225-30, 228 col. 2.

14. Joyce E. Chaplin, Subject Matter: Technology, the Body, and Science on the Anglo-American Frontier, 1500-1676 (Cambridge, MA, 2001); Joanne Pope Melish, "Emancipation and the Em-bodiment of 'Race': The Strange Case of White Negroes and the Algerine Slaves," in Janet Moore Lindman and Michele Lise Tarter, eds, A Centre of Wonders: the Body in Early America (Ithaca, NY., 2001), 223-36. On the identification of the medieval European peasantry as "black", see David Brion Davis, "Constructing Race: a Reflection", William and Mary Quarterly, 3rd ser., 54 (1997), 7-18, 13.

15. E. Hughes, ed., The Letters of Spencer Cowper, Dean of Durham, 1746-74 (Durham, 1950, Surtees Society vol.165), 102, 141, 142.

16. Newcastle Courant, 27 May 1738; 17 September 1737; 12 July 1740, George Scongald. In our surveys, "dark" and "swarthy" were more common in England than "black."

17. Maryland Gazette, 1 August 1765, just imported in the ship Ann--not referred to as a convict servant; 24 September 1767; brought in on the Thornton, Captain Read, "lately"; 30 June 1768, the gypsy John Smith, ran again from the Patuxent Ironworks, from John Snowden; Peter W. Coldham The Complete Book of Emigrants in Bondage, 1614-1775 (Baltimore, 1988), 738 and 746, says they were convicted and reprieved for sheepstealing in Buckinghamshire, reprieved May 1767, and shipped on the Thornton.

18. Winthrop D. Jordan, White Over Black: American Attitudes Toward the Negro, 1550-1812 (Baltimore, MD, 1969), 61 and 175 on language, 167-9 on the ambiguous status of mulattos, who were allowed into Georgia in 1765 to be "white."

19. Maryland Gazette, 30 May 1754; for the Greyhound whose master was Alex Stewart, see the somewhat sarcastic reports in the Boston Gazette, 31 March 1752, and 8 May 1753.

20. Virginia Gazette (Pinkney), 10 November 1774.

21. Virginia Gazette (Purdie & Dixon), 11 November 1773; we have been able to trace eight usages of "black complexion" for Virginia runaways of European origin.

22. The Sot-Weed Factor; or, a Voyage to Maryland etc., Ebenezer Cook, in The Heath Anthology of American Literature, 4th edition, Paul Lauter ed. (Boston, MA, 2002), 631, Line 28; 639, line 295 "his tawny worship" for a justice of the peace.

23. James Otis, The Rights of the British Colonies Asserted and Proved, cited in Staughton Lynd, "The Abolitionist Critique of the Constitution" in his Class, Conflict, Slavery and the United States Constitution (Indianopolis and New York, 1967), 180-1; on the threat of racial mixture to power relations, see Thomas C. Holt, "Of Blood and Power: An Introduction," William and Mary Quarterly 3rd ser. 61, no.3 (2004), 438; on British attitudes to Africans and colour, see P. J. Marshall and Glyndwr Williams, The Great Map of Mankind: British Perceptions of the World in an Age of Enlightenment (London, 1982), Chapter 8, "'One Rude Chaos': Accounts of Africa in the Slave Trade Era," 227-57.

24. Virginia Gazette (Hunter), 8 August 1751. See also John Davis, Virginia Gazette (Parks), 11 May 1739, from Bristol, "sun-burnt and looks like a labouring person." Note that a century later felons in Australia were known as the "nut-browns": Amanda Laugesen, Convict Words: Language in Early Colonial Australia (Melbourne, 2002), 142.

25. Virginia Gazette (Parks), 18 September 1746.

26. Virginia Gazette (Rind), 22 September 1768, George Eaton and Charles Davis.

27. Virginia Gazette (Rind), 22 September 1768, George Eaton; Newcastle Courant, 31 March 1764, advertisement for John Beartark, who "made an elopement from his Master's Service, with a considerable sum of money in his Custody. He had on when he went away, a brown Coat, a Pair of clean Leather Breeches, his own Hair with a false Curl."

28. Virginia Gazette (Purdie and Dixon), 18 January 1770, Charles Dayly; (Rind), 22 July 1773, Thomas Putrell; (Purdie), 17 November 1775 Supplement, John Murphey.

29. Newcastle Courant, 5 March 1737, men arrested on suspicion of highway robbery; 10 October 1761; Jordan, White Over Black, 107. Cutting the hair later became a standard punishment for recalcitrant women in both Britain and Australia: see Joy Damousi, Depraved and Disorderly: Female Convicts, Sexuality and Gender in Australia (Cambridge, 1997), and Kay Daniels, Convict Women (Crows Nest NSW, 1998), 105-6, 112, 115. Convict women also had to wear heavy iron collars if rebellious, like slaves and servants in colonial America.

30. Gillian Russell, "Keeping Place': Servants, Theater and Sociability in Mid-Eighteenth-Century Britain," The Eighteenth Century: Theory and Interpretation 42, no.1 (2001), 21-42, 23; Giles Waterfield, Anne French and Matthew Craske, Below Stairs: 400 Years of Servants' Portraits (London, National Portrait Gallery Publications, 2003), 11-12; for a runaway servant in a "livery hat," see John Lowes, who ran away from the Rev Mr Wekett of Brancepeth, County Durham, Newcastle Courant, 6 November 1736.

31. 19.6% of criminals, 21% of deserters (mostly from the army), compared with 16.7% of apprentices and servants.

32. Apprentices described as being dressed in wigs: Newcastle Courant, 7 August 1756; and another aged seventeen, 2 September 1758; by nineteen years old, Charles Peever, apprentice, had a wig, 23 July 1757; by contrast an apprentice to a wigmaker did not have a wig--Henry Young, a "boy" of about seventeen years old, 22 April 1758.

33. Newcastle Courant, 16 April 1774; it is a good question whether shipwrights (relatively skilled) took off their wigs to work.

34. An Apology for the Life of Bampfylde-Moore Carew, (son of the Rev. Mr Carew, of Bickley), commonly known throughout the West of England, by the Title of King of the Beggars, and Dog Merchant-General, in The King of the Beggars: Bampfylde-Moore Carew, edited by C. H. Wilkinson (Oxford, 1931), 100; men shaved and the women put in their best headresses; the mythical James Revel in his account also describes being cleaned up and shaved, John Melville Jennings, "The Poor Unhappy Transported Felon's Sorrowful Account of His Fourteen Years Transportation in America," Virginia Magazine of History and Biography, 56 (1948), 180-94, 190.

35. Hats deserve treatment in themselves--convict runaways in Virginia sported hats described as felt hats, beaver hats, wool hats, castor hats, a plat hat (?platted straw?), a fantail hat, and a Bermuda Hat. Nothing like this variety is reported, in the North of England at least.

36. Virginia Gazette (Parks), 6 July 1739; (Hunter), 17 July 1752, a "grizle wig"; 20 February 1752 for a bob wig (out of about 14 references to convicts wearing them).

37. Helen Bradley Foster, "New Raiments of Self": African-American Clothing in the Antebellum South (Oxford, 1997).

38. Virginia Gazette (Hunter), 7 November 1754, Barnaby Allay; (Purdie and Dixon), 18 January 1770, Charles Dayly; (Pinkney), 10 November 1774, William Booth; (Rind), 26 August 1773 John Farrell (with Peter Robb).

39. Newcastle Courant, 24 November 1744.

40. Virginia Gazette (Purdie and Co), 16 May 1766; (Dixon & Hunter), 17 June 1775; (Purdie), Supplement, 26 May 1775, John Thrift.

41. Newcastle Courant, 3 January 1741 with William Chamberlain, both from Howard's Regiment; see another deserter, 29 November 1760, William Murphy deserted from the Independent Company. There are more than 40 uses of the phrase "down look" about convicts in the Virginia Gazette; in the Maryland Gazette, by contrast, the phrase was often "hanging look"; Newman, Embodied History, 93-4.

42. References to typical clothing and hair for sailors are common, and the general dirt of miners made them identifiable (see above). For advertisements mentioning physical injuries, see Morgan and Rushton, Eighteenth-Century Criminal Transportation, 115.

43. Our thanks are due to participants at the 2003 Anglo-American Conference for raising this problem.

44. John M. Beattie, Crime and the Criminal Courts in England, 1660-1800 (Princeton, N.J., 1986), 498-9 on branding on the face; Newman, Embodied History, 97; Virginia Gazette (Purdie and Co), 2 May 1766 (Robert Munford); see Michael A. McDonnell, "A World Turned 'Topsy Turvy': Robert Munford, The Patriots, and the Crisis of the Revolution," William and Mary Quarterly 3rd ser. 61, no.2 (2004), 235-70, 257 ft.39: Jack was executed in 1772 for rape of a white woman; Virginia Gazette (Rind), 9 May 1771 (Samuel Sherwin, slave called Peter); (Purdie and Dixon), 7 June 1770 (Edward Rutland); (Dixon and Hunter), 2 December 1775 (William Tabb and Robert Goodloe, slave Charles). See also Virginia Gazette (Rind), 11 August 1774 (Housen Kenner, slave Jonathan branded "HK" on his thigh); (Purdie and Dixon), 15 September 1774 (Salathiel Vaughan, slave Sip, branded "SV" on the right cheek); (Purdie and Dixon), 2 November 1769 (John Randolph, slave Sam, branded "R" on the cheek, and Aaron, also branded, "but it is almost worn out"); see Jordan, White Over Black, 233: this type of branding was done "sometimes" in South Carolina, Georgia and the West Indies.

45. Beattie, Crime and the Criminal Courts in England, 616-7 on changing forms of punishment including branding which was largely abolished in 1779.

46. Virginia Gazette (Hunter), 9 May 1751.

47. Virginia Gazette (Purdie and Dixon) 22 October 1774, and (Pinkney), 4 November 1774; Virginia Gazette (Parks), 17 August 1739, John Freelove with John Mackue, Francis Man and Daniel Fitspatrick; the files of the Virginia Runaways Project confirm that "branded" is applied only to the horses that servants stole when they left. See many similar forms of words in the Pennsylvania Gazette, derived from Maryland and Virginia runaway advertisements, e.g. for John Wiglay and Rebecca Wooley, the latter "burnt in the hand," 26 October 1749.

48. Virginia Gazette (Purdie & Dixon), 18 January 1770, advertisement by N. Dandridge; (Rind), 2 June 1774 (Charles Sawyer); (Parks), 3 February 1737 (Anne Relee alias Bush, running away with convict servantman Edward Ormsby); also (Rind), 1 August 1771 (William Springate, convict, with "the marks of a severe whipping given him lately for breaking into a house").

49. Diana Paton, "Punishment, Crime and the Bodies of Slaves in Eighteenth-Century Jamaica," Journal of Social History 34, no. 4 (2001), 923-54; Bradley J. Nicholson, "Legal Borrowing and the Origins of Slave Law in the British Colonies," American Journal of Legal History 38, no.1 (1994), 38-54; Max Weber, From Max Weber: Essays in Sociology, edited and introduced by H.H. Gerth and C. Wright Mills (London, 1948), 78, for the definition of the state in terms of a monopoly of legitimate violence; note the exception of younger servants and adolescent apprentices, still subject to domestic "discipline."

50. Caplan, Written on the Body; C.R. Sanders, Customising the Body: The Art and Culture of Tattooing (Philadelphia, PA, 1989).

51. Newcastle Courant, 27 January 1739; convicted at Surrey Quarter Sessions.

52. Virginia Gazette (Parks), 9 June 1738 and 6 July 1739; there are many English sources on the fate of Kibble or Keble--trials in the Old Bailey Sessions Papers 1739 and 1743, and his criminal biography, A Genuine Account of the Behaviour, Confessions and Dying Words of Malefactors etc. (London, for J. Nicholson at the Old Bailey, 1743). At the time of his execution he was reported to have been transported five times and returned to England after each, Gentleman's Magazine 13 (24 August 1743), 442.

53. American Weekly Mercury, 1 July 1736, run away from Patrick Creagh of Annapolis, Maryland; Virginia Gazette (Parks), 17 November 1738.

54. See Maxwell-Stewart and Duffield, "Skin Deep Devotions"; see also Simon Newman, Embodied History, Ch. 5 "Seafaring Bodies"; Maxwell-Stewart and Bradley, "'Behold the Man'".

55. See David Waldstreicher, "Reading the Runaways: Self-Fashioning, Print Culture, and Confidence in Slavery in the Eighteenth-Century Mid-Atlantic," William and Mary Quarterly 3rd ser. 56, no.2 (1999), 243-72, 248; Jonathan Prude, "To Look upon the 'Lower Sort': Runaway Ads and the Appearance of Unfree Laborers in America, 1750-1800," Journal of American History 78, no. 1 (1991), 124-59.

56. See Morgan and Rushton, Rogues, Thieves and the Rule of Law, 38, on handbills; John Styles, "Print and Policing: Crime Advertising in Eighteenth-Century Provincial England," in D. Hay and F. Snyder, eds, Policing and Prosecution in England, 1750-1850 (Oxford, 1989), 55-111; northern English runaway advertisements seem to have followed a week or two after the absence, but, in the American colonies, perhaps because of greater distances, there could be weeks or months after the running away--see Virginia Gazette (Purdie & Dixon), 14 April 1768, Edmund Cooper had run away at the end of the previous October; G. W. Mullin, Flight and Rebellion: Slave Resistance in Eighteenth-Century Virginia (New York, 1972), 56 on the limits to permitted absences from plantations.

57. Charles E. Clark and Charles Wetherell, "The Measure of Maturity: The Pennsylvania Gazette, 1728-1765," William and Mary Quarterly 3rd ser. 46, no.2 (1989), 279-303, Table VI, 299, group all these together as "labor problems"; Sharon V. Salinger, "To Serve Well and Faithfully": Labor and Indentured Servants in Pennsylvania, 1682-1800 (New York, 1987); for English service, see Ann Kussmaul, Servants in Husbandry in Early Modern England (Cambridge, 1981).

58. Survey of the Newcastle Courant, 1736-44, 1756-65 (N=203), each of these main categories made up 30% of the advertisements and reports containing descriptions; family members going absent constitute a further 6%.

59. Jordan, White Over Black, 107; William Waller Hening, ed., The Statutes at Large, Being a Collection of all the Laws of Virginia etc. (Charlottesville, VA, 1969), Vol. 1, 517-8.

60. Aaron S. Fogleman, "From Slaves, Convicts, and Servants to Free Passengers: the Transformation of Immigration in the Era of the American Revolution," Journal of American History 85 (1998), 43-76; The Infortunate: The Voyage and Adventures of William Moraley, an Indentured Servant, Susan E. Klepp and Billy G. Smith, eds (University Park, PA, 1992), 96-7--note that Moraley was mistaken for a runaway after he had got hopelessly lost in the crossroads of New Jersey 112-3; on myths and realities of social deference Michael Zuckerman, "Tocqueville, Turner and Turds: Four Stories of Manners in Early America," Journal of American History 85 (1998), 13-42.

61. A.L. Beier, Masterless Men: The Vagrancy Problem in England, 1560-1640 (London, 1985); Paul Griffiths, "Masterless Young People in Norwich, 1560-1645," in Paul Griffiths, Adam Fox and Steve Hindle eds, The Experience of Authority in Early Modern England (Basingstoke, 1996) 146-86; Norma Landau, "The Laws of Settlement and the Surveillance of Immigration in Eighteenth-Century Kent," Continuity and Change 3 (1988), 391-420; K. D. M. Snell, Annals of the Labouring Poor: Social Change and Agrarian England, 1660-1900 (Cambridge, 1985); Morgan and Rushton, Rogues, Thieves and the Rule of Law, Chapter 4 on vagrant gangs who would give no account of themselves.

62. Newcastle Courant 3, 7 and 14 December 1774, Hue & Cry.

63. See also Newcastle Courant, 23 April 1774, in the Hue and Cry, "Run away from his family in company with a woman from Berwick upon Tweed, Thomas Luke."

64. M. Foucault, Discipline and Punish: the Birth of the Prison, tr. by A. Sheridan, (Harmondsworth, 1979); Geoffrey Pearson, Hooligan: a History of Respectable Fears (London, 1983).

65. With regard to convict runaways in Virginia, there are a handful of advertisements by county jailers, but the majority were placed by the employers; in England, the majority of alarms for supposed criminals were placed by county officials, while employers concentrated on their non-criminal employees. The problem for Virginians was that the servants were the criminals, in many cases. See J. Innes, "Prisons for the Poor: English Bridewells, 1555-1800," in F. Snyder & D. Hay, eds, Labour, Law and Crime: An Historical Perspective (London, 1987), 42-122; Pieter Spierenburg, The Prison Experience: Disciplinary Institutions and Their Inmates in Early Modern Europe (New Brunswick, NJ and London, 1991); M. Meranze, Laboratories of Virtue: Punishment, Revolution and Authority in Philadelphia, 1760-1835 (Chapel Hill, NC and London, 1996); Mark Colvin, Penitentiaries, Reformatories and Chain Gangs: Social Theory and the History of Punishment in Nineteenth-Century America (Basingstoke, 1997); D. J. Rothman, The Discovery of the Asylum. Social Order and Disorder in the New Republic (Boston, MA, 1971); Simon Newman seems to have studied one of the few American "almshouses" of Philadelphia, Embodied History; for international comparisons, see N. Morris and D. J. Rothman, eds, The Oxford History of the Prison: The Practice of Imprisonment in Western Society (Oxford, 1995).

66. Kenneth Morgan, Slavery and Servitude in North America, 1607-1800 (Edinburgh, 2000), Chapter 5, "Slave and Servant Resistance," 86-101.

67. Felix Farley's Bristol Journal, 22 October 1763, Letter to the Printer etc.

68. Newcastle Courant, 12 November 1763; for the northern connections of the Coventry Gang, see account of William Fall and his family, Morgan and Rushton, Rogues, Thieves and the Rule of Law, 88-91.

69. Morgan and Rushton, Rogues, Thieves and the Rule of Law, 45.

70. Newcastle Courant, 25 September and 16 October 1773.

71. Newcastle Courant, 11 and 18 September, 30 October, 4 December (from London datelined 25 November), 1773.

72. Newcastle Courant, 14 September 1776.

73. See Malick W. Ghachem, "The Slave's Two Bodies: the Life of an American Legal Fiction," William and Mary Quarterly 3rd ser. 60, no.4 (2003), 809-42; Alex Bontemps, The Punished Self: Surviving Slavery in the Colonial South (Ithaca, NY, 2001). Typical of the records are those kept by Charles Ridgely, Maryland Historical Society, Baltimore Maryland, MS.691 Ridgely Account Books, Microfilm Roll 11; for use of these, see R. K. Lancaster, "Almost Chattel: the Lives of Indentured Servants at Hampton-Northampton, Baltimore County," Maryland Historical Magazine 94, (1999), 341-62, and "Chattel Slavery at Hampton/Northampton, Baltimore County," Maryland Historical Magazine 95 (2000), 409-27; Bernard Bailyn, Voyagers to the West: a Passage in the Peopling of America on the Eve of the Revolution (New York, 1986), 351, notes that George Washington issued orders that descriptions of slaves be kept. For a more extended analysis of this kind of material, see Gwenda Morgan and Peter Rushton, "Running Away and Returning Home: the Fate of English Convicts in the American Colonies," Crime, Histoire & Societes / Crime, History & Societies 7, no.2 (2003), 61-80.

74. Prude, "To Look upon the 'Lower Sort'", 156; see Waldstreicher, "Reading the Runaways", 261-5 on "passing" for something that you were not, particularly in racial terms.

75. Michael Hindus, Prison and Plantation: Crime, Justice and Authority in Massachusetts and South Carolina, 1767-1878 (Chapel Hill, NC, 1980), xviii on comparison within one country, and 99-102; Sally Hadden, Slave Patrols: Law and Violence in Virginia and the Carolinas (Cambridge, MA, 2001) on the continuing alert for runaways; Colvin, Penitentiaries, Reformatiories and Chain Gangs, 90-1 on scandalous violence at Auburn, New York; Anderson, Legible Bodies.

76. Rothman, Discovery of the Asylum; Norval and Morris, Oxford History of the Prison; Foucault, Discipline and Punish, p.135, where significantly he begins from the preceding patterns of military discipline.

77. Newman, Embodied History, 9, 17, 43.

78. See among others Maxwell-Stewart and Duffield, "Skin Deep Devotions."

79. Colvin, Penitentiaries, Reformatiories and Chain Gangs, 57-60 on New York; Simon Cole, Suspect Identities: a History of Fingerprinting and Criminal Identification (Cambridge, MA, 2001), 11, 20; Richard Ireland and Claire Breay, "Hard Labour on a Hard Disk: Carmarthen's Register of Felons on Computer," Carmarthenshire Antiquary, 29 (1993), 61-66, and examples can be found on the website of Welsh Cultural History, Culturenet, at, while the originals are in Carmarthenshire Archive Services; Birmingham's photographs are displayed and discussed on the BBC website, under family history and "mugshot gallery".

80. Cole, Suspect Identities, 85 onwards; Anderson, Legible Bodies.

81. Jane Caplan and John Torpey, Documenting Individual Identity: the Development of State Practices in the Modern World (Princeton, NJ, 2001), 3.

82. Anderson, Legible Bodies, 7, 57.

83. Bradley Foster, "New Raiments of Self"; on feminism and the resistant subject, see Laureen Snider, "Constituting the Punishable Woman: Atavistic Man Incarcerates Post-modern Woman," British Journal of Criminology 43 (2003), 354-78, 371; Prude, "To Look upon the 'Lower Sort'"; Waldstreicher, "Reading the Runaways."

84. A Centre of Wonders: the Body in Early America, Lindman and Tarter, Introduction by editors, 2.

85. Jessica R. Johnston, "Resisting Bodies," Introduction to Pt.IV, 247-55 in The American Body in Context: An Anthology, ed. Jessica R. Johnston (Wilmington, DE, 2001), 248, 251.

86. Bob Dylan, "Like a Rolling Stone," on Highway 61 Revisited, 1965.

By Gwenda Morgan and Peter Rushton

University of Sunderland
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