In 1689 the merchant John Farmer complained to the Earl of Nottingham that he and a companion had been imprisoned at Beaumoris without accusation or warrant. Although held only two days before being brought to the Mayor and let go, he was "damnified in business and health." Donald Trump would no doubt have called it … Continue reading Some Trump-Induced Thoughts on the History of Detention
Below are three calls for papers and proposals that have come into our inbox recently. None of these are specifically about early modern prisons, but they touch on related subjects that might interest readers of our blog. If you have a call for papers or a conference that you think ought to be publicized on … Continue reading Some Recent Calls for Papers
We are delighted to publish this guest post by John Owen Havard, Assistant Professor of English at Binghamton University, whose forthcoming work includes a book on the origins of disaffected attitudes towards politics and a new project on thinking about politics, freedom, and the end of the world in writings by Byron, Hobhouse, and their … Continue reading Radicalism, Respectability, and the Case of the Imprisoned Politician
We are delighted to publish this guest post by David Cressy, who is Research Professor in Arts and Humanities at Claremont Graduate University, and George III Professor of British History Emeritus at The Ohio State University. He is finishing a history of Gypsies, and beginning a study of England's islands The orders, pamphlets, and petitions … Continue reading England’s Island Prisons
What does it mean to be a prisoner? Most of us today would cite confinement within bars or walls as a defining characteristic. But this was not necessarily the case in the early modern period, when some prisoners enjoyed freedom of movement. Debtors in London’s Fleet and King’s Bench prisons, for example, might lodge … Continue reading Rethinking the meaning of imprisonment in the 1690s
Last week we cross-posted Krista Kesselring’s essay on early modern coroner’s inquests into prisoner deaths, which originally appeared on the blog Legal History Miscellany. I have never looked systematically into the records of coroner’s juries, as Professor Kesselring did, but I’ve found two intriguing cases in the course of my research that seem to confirm … Continue reading Further Thoughts on Coroner’s Inquests into Deaths in Custody
We are delighted to share this post by Krista Kesselring, Professor of History at Dalhousie University. It originally appeared on the Legal History Miscellany blog on July 9, 2017.
Posted by Krista Kesselring, 9 July 2017.
Deaths in gaol have long required investigation by coroners. In Canada, one provincial jurisdiction recently sought to end this practice to save time and money, but abandoned the proposal upon protests that the public had a duty and right to oversee custodial conditions. The mandatory inquest into deaths of prisoners has a long history, dating back to the medieval origins of the coroner, when his duties centered on preserving the king’s rights and revenues. Looking at early modern inquests makes one wonder about their purpose and utility, in an era when gaol deaths were rife and the inquests typically perfunctory.
As one might expect, gaol deaths kept early modern coroners and their inquest jurors busy: J.S. Cockburn’s study of the assize court records extant for the five Home Counties between 1559-1625 noted inquests into no fewer than 1,291 deaths in custody, observing…
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Sometimes I try to lift my head out of the archives and read around in the growing and really awesome new literature on prisons in more recent times. This is the first of what I hope will be a series of posts about books that deal with the more recently historical experiences of incarceration and … Continue reading Reading Megan Comfort’s Doing Time Together as an Early Modernist.
George Dewing, the keeper of the Halstead House of Correction, was a monster who raped an inmate and murdered her child. Or he was framed. The version of the story in which he was a monster is found in A Short and Impartial Account of the Proceedings against George Dewing (1728), probably written by … Continue reading Rape and Infanticide at the Halstead House of Correction
by Kiran Mehta In The Promise of Punishment: Prisons in Nineteenth-Century France, published in 1982, Patricia O’Brien argued that the prison guard was ‘the most important person in the operation of the prison’ and that ‘the whole disciplinary regime of the nineteenth century [could] be reduced to the dealings of the guard with the prisoner’. … Continue reading Prisoners and Prison Staff at the Cold Bath Fields House of Correction