Emily Merrill

Andrew W. Mellon Graduate Fellow in the Humanities

20132014 Forum on Violence

Emily Merrill


Judging Empire: British Military Courts and the Politics of the Body in Revolutionary America

The project explores the intersections of gender, military, and empire in the late eighteenth century by examining cases of bodily assault prosecuted by British military courts during the Revolutionary War. These cases reveal the tensions between male privilege and military authority as they relate to the politics of the body—primarily the role of class in determining what rights to bodily integrity one had. In North America, military authority and, perhaps more importantly, imperial power, were threatened by enlisted men's assertions of male privilege over their own bodies and over others' bodies. Therefore, the adjudication of these assault cases went beyond questions of military justice to reveal crucial, unexamined dimensions of the British imperial project.