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PhD Candidate @ University of Warwick


Liz Egan is a third year PhD candidate at the University of Warwick, kindly supported by Midlands4Cities doctoral training partnership. She received her BA in History from the University of Leeds and MA in World History and Cultures from King’s College London. Her PhD project is provisionally entitled ‘Constructing and Challenging Creole Whiteness in Jamaica, 1865-1938’

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Plantation and Police


A Story of a West Indian Policeman: Race, Class, and Justice in the Jamaica Constabulary Force
Summary: In 1927, Inspector Herbert Thomas published his memoir, 'A Story of a West Indian Policeman' in Kingston, Jamaica. Thomas, a white Jamaican, was born in in 1856 to Rev. John Thomas, a Moravian clergyman, and was sent to school in Yorkshire and Germany, returning to Jamaica as a sub-inspector of the constabulary in 1876. His memoir is an interesting melange of genres, combining elements of travelogue alongside Thomas’s personal ‘story’ that constitutes the central chapters of the book. Here, Thomas narrates his professional achievements and personal woes, offering an intriguing glimpse into the careful self-fashioning of a white police inspector of the Jamaican Constabulary. An ardent imperialist and a self-styled arbiter of colour-blind justice, his memoir locates Jamaican policing within wider questions about race and class in both the colonial Caribbean and broader British Empire. This paper employs the memoir as a starting point through which to consider the role of the constabulary in the maintenance of racialised colonial order. Interrogating the moments and events that Thomas emphasised, such as the 1902 Montego Bay “riots”, I also attend to the silences and elisions embedded in his narrative, teasing out the ambiguities and contradictions at its heart. Doing so, this paper will contextualise the formulation of white Jamaican subjectivities and illustrate the place of policing within broader debates about race and colonialism during the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries.

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