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.
Last week, on Monday 10 April, I was fortunate enough to attend a day conference hosted by the International John Bunyan Society on “Prisons and Prison Writing in Early Modern Britain” held at Northumbria University. Given how relevant the conference was to this blog, and how enjoyable it was, I thought I’d provide a brief … Continue reading Conference report: “Prisons and Prison Writing in Early Modern Britain”
In 1675, Christopher Flower published The Penitent Prisoner, a short tract intended to offer divine comfort to condemned inmates and encourage penitence, a spiritual guide on turning the ‘Gaole into a Shop to traffick for Heaven’. This was very much of a piece with the literature of criminal penitence and scaffold speeches explored by historians … Continue reading Profitable penitence: selling books for prisoners in seventeenth-century London
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
On 11 June 1646, John Lilburne was imprisoned by the House of Lords following an altercation over a libel he’d printed against the Earl of Manchester. Although this marked the beginning of a period of recurrent imprisonment for Lilburne, it wasn’t the first time he'd ended up in prison. In 1637, he had been incarcerated … Continue reading Imprisoned in print: John Lilburne and the (in)visibility of incarceration
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 10 January 2017.
Posted by Krista Kesselring; 10 January 2017
The State Papers contain a remarkable rough draft of an Act intended to condemn petty offenders to slavery. Prepared at the opening of the 1621 parliament by an unknown author, the proposal had the following title: ‘An Act for keeping in servile works such persons as shall be convicted of petit larceny and felony capable of the benefit of clergy, and such as shall be convicted for cheaters or incorrigible rogues.’ It echoed in some ways the infamous but short-lived 1547 Act to enslave the persistently unemployed, though this one – somewhat surprisingly, perhaps, given its talk of slavery – presented itself as a measure not just of heightened rigour but also of mercy.
The text is given below. The measure did not pass – nothing passed into law from the 1621 parliament, save for a few new taxes – and the…
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As America says goodbye to a president who promised but failed to close Guantánamo, and prepare to inaugurate one who says he wants to “load it up with some bad dudes” we would do well to remember John Bernardi. As suggested by the title of his Short History of the Life of Major John Bernardi, … Continue reading Imprisoned without Trial: Remembering John Bernardi
Richard Bell's recent post showed how a humble garden billhook could a potential tool of violence against prisoners. Keys, doors, locks, and grates could wreak a subtler kind of violence. Barring visitors from a prison could be deadly. "When prisoners are sick," some Newgate debtors told the JPs in 1724, the underkeeper Mr. Perry "won’t let … Continue reading Grates and Keys: Violence in Early Modern Prisons, Part II
Violence in prisons is a perennial concern. This is not surprising–the very act of restricting liberty inevitably requires the use of force. In this post, I want to look at one episode in the King’s Bench prison that shows how threats of violence could be used in attempts to curtail resistance and restrict political action … Continue reading Violence, horticulture and wordplay in the King’s Bench