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Rape and Sexual Power in Early America:by Sharon Block
Synopses & Reviews
"Block deftly navigates . . . complicated matters in her thoroughly researched monograph."
— Journal of African American History "A convincing portrait of the broader social and political environments in which distinctions between coercion and consent, assault and rape, were and were not drawn."
— Early American Literature "Comprehensive. . . . The standard work on early American sexual violence and rape as well as a great source to use when studying the early American power struggle between men and women and between whites and blacks."
— H-Net "Impressive. . . . [A] careful archival and interpretive work."
— Early American Literature "A comprehensive look into the issue of rape and sexual violence during early American history. . . . Modern readers will gain a vivid understanding of not only rape and sexual relations during this period, but also the connection between rape and racism."
— < i>H-Net Reviews
"Ambitious . . . Extensively researched. . . . [This] provocative and well-argued book will change the way scholars think about rape. . . . A nuanced analysis."
— The William and Mary Quarterly "Likely to generate excellent discussions in women's studies, women's history and early American history classrooms. . . . Block has demonstrated that rape does indeed have a history."
— Register of the Kentucky Historical Society "Unravels the power dynamics of rape by merging microhistories of individual women with macrohistories of institutional and cultural views of sexual behavior."
— COMMON-PLACE "Block's thorough research, astute analysis, and graceful writing make this the definitive work on rape in the British colonies and early Republic."
— New England Quarterly "An original and multifaceted exploration. . . . Combines . . . methodological approaches of social, legal, and cultural history to offer many perspectives on rape, and it does so within a sophisticated theoretical framework that spans literary, legal, and historical analyses of gender, power, sexuality, race, and colonialism. . . . Will surely become standard reading for scholars of early American history, women's history more broadly, and students of gender, race, sexuality and power."
— Journal of Social History
"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"
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.
About the Author
Sharon Block is associate professor of history at the University of California, Irvine.
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