Jeremy Bentham and Australia

Convicts, utility and empire

Edited by Tim Causer, Margot Finn, and Philip Schofield

ISBN: 9781787358188

Publication: April 29, 2022

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Jeremy Bentham and Australia is a collection of scholarship inspired by Bentham’s writings on Australia. These writings are available for the first time in authoritative form in Panopticon versus New South Wales and other writings on Australia, a volume in The Collected Works of Jeremy Bentham published by UCL Press.

In the present collection, a distinguished group of authors reflect on Bentham’s Australian writings, making original contributions to existing debates and setting agendas for future ones. In the first part of the collection, the works are placed in their historical contexts, while the second part provides a critical assessment of the historical accuracy and plausibility of Bentham’s arguments against transportation from the British Isles. In the third part, attention turns to Bentham’s claim that New South Wales had been illegally founded and to the imperial and colonial constitutional ramifications of that claim. Here, authors also discuss Bentham’s work of 1831 in which he supports the establishment of a free colony on the southern coast of Australia. In the final part, authors shed light on the history of Bentham’s panopticon penitentiary scheme, his views on the punishment and reform of criminals and what role, if any, religion had to play in that regard, and discuss apparently panopticon-inspired institutions built in the Australian colonies.

This collection will appeal to readers interested in Bentham’s life and thought, the history of transportation from the British Isles, and of British penal policy more generally, colonial and imperial history, Indigenous history, legal and constitutional history, and religious history.

Tim Causer is Senior Research Fellow at the Bentham Project, UCL Faculty of Laws.

Margot Finn is Professor of Modern British History at UCL and, from 2016–20, was President of the Royal Historical Society.

Philip Schofield is Director of the Bentham Project, UCL Faculty of Laws, and General Editor of the new authoritative edition of The Collected Works of Jeremy Bentham.

List of contributors

List of figures

List of tables



Tim Causer

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

1. Bentham and the Criminal-Fiscal state

Deborah Oxley

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

Hamish Maxwell-Stewart

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

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

Kirsten McKenzie

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

Katherine Roscoe and Barry Godfrey

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

Matthew Allen and David Andrew Roberts

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

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

Edward Cavanagh

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

Anne Brunon-Ernst

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

Philip Schofield

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

Zoë Laidlaw

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

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

Honey Dower

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

Emily Lanman

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

Hilary M. Carey

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

Tim Causer


Format: Open Access PDF

16 colour illustrations

Copyright: © 2022

ISBN: 9781787358188

Publication: April 29, 2022

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