Military-related crime in Jamaica during the 1920s and 1930s: questions of race, masculinity and nationhood

Smith, Richard W. P.. 2018. 'Military-related crime in Jamaica during the 1920s and 1930s: questions of race, masculinity and nationhood'. In: British Crime Historians symposium. Edge Hill University, United Kingdom 1 September 2018. [Conference or Workshop Item]

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Abstract or Description

Military-civilian interactions comprised an important element of the colonial experience and served as a focal point for imperial concerns around race and gender. This paper examines two high-profile murder cases involving the military in interwar Jamaica to explore these themes. During WW1 and into the demobilisation period, colonial government feared the potential of Jamaican volunteers to disturb the established order. Such fears are evident in the first case-study of a black war veteran subjected to the death penalty for killing a comrade, despite a public clemency campaign citing war trauma by the Jamaica Reform Club, an organisation of radicals and intellectuals. The second example discusses the killing of a soldier from a visiting British regiment in a scuffle with Jamaican civilians. Enraged white soldiers went on to riot through Kingston, disrupting the stereotypical image of black insurrection which tended to shape colonial policing and further unsettling the racialised, masculine hierarchy of empire, already brought into question during WW1. Significantly, the defendant in the ensuing murder trial was successfully defended by Norman Manley, future leader of the People’s National Party, who manipulated assumptions about race and class to secure a not guilty verdict.

Item Type:

Conference or Workshop Item (Paper)

Departments, Centres and Research Units:

Media, Communications and Cultural Studies


1 September 2018Accepted

Event Location:

Edge Hill University, United Kingdom

Date range:

1 September 2018

Item ID:


Date Deposited:

19 Sep 2018 09:47

Last Modified:

01 Sep 2019 01:26


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