Rape and Sexual Power in Early America / Edition 1

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Overview

In a comprehensive examination of rape and its prosecution in British America between 1700 and 1820, Sharon Block exposes the dynamics of sexual power on which colonial and early republican Anglo-American society was based.

Block analyzes the legal, social, and cultural implications of more than nine hundred documented incidents of sexual coercion and hundreds more extralegal commentaries found in almanacs, newspapers, broadsides, and other print and manuscript sources. Highlighting the gap between reports of coerced sex and incidents that were publicly classified as rape, Block demonstrates that public definitions of rape were based less on what actually happened than on who was involved. She challenges conventional narratives that claim sexual relations between white women and black men became racially charged only in the late nineteenth century. Her analysis extends racial ties to rape back into the colonial period and beyond the boundaries of the southern slave-labor system. Early Americans' treatment of rape, Block argues, both enacted and helped to sustain the social, racial, gender, and political hierarchies of a New World and a new nation.

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
"This book's strength lies in the cultural and intellectual history of gender and race through the analysis of texts; the author parses a host of judicial cases and other recorded incidents of rape and sexual assault. In this respect, the book has no equal for the time and places it considers."
Journal of Interdisciplinary History

"A tour de force of historical research and cultural analysis.

Norma Basch, Emerita, Rutgers University "

"In this model integration of social, legal, and cultural history, Block astutely explores the political import of sexual violence.

Estelle Freedman, Stanford University"

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Product Details

Meet the Author

Sharon Block is associate professor of history at the University of California, Irvine.

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Table of Contents

1 Consent and coercion : the continuum of sexual relations 16
2 The means of sexual coercion : identity, power, and social consent 53
3 After coerced sex : the progression of knowledge 88
4 The crime of rape : transatlantic standards, American racialization, and local judgment 126
5 Constructing rape and race at early American courts 163
6 New worlds of rape : masculinity, myth, and revolution 210
App. A Tabulation of known sexual coercion incidents
App. B Legal records consulted
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