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Prisons are never far from the headlines at the present time in the UK. As I write, a new Prisons and Courts Bill is being hailed as ‘a historical shift in thinking about the purpose of prisons’, on the grounds that it sets out rehabilitation as a specific, statutory goal.
Martial law does not have a good reputation. William Blackstone set the tone of modern attitudes in the 18th century. Martial law is ‘built upon no settled principles ... entirely arbitrary in its decisions ... no law, but something indulged, rather than allowed as a law’ (quoted at p. 251).
Lauren Benton and Lisa Ford’s jointly-written book is slim in size – 197 pages of text, 74 of notes – but expansive in scope and interpretative ambition. It is a dense, complex piece of history, frequently operating on several levels at once.
Karen Baston’s book is more than a revision of her Ph.D. It moves significantly beyond her thesis to open up fascinating new perspectives on the neglected subject of the place of the Scottish legal profession in Scottish public culture during the European Enlightenment of the 18th century.
At the start of this century, Tim Hitchcock and Bob Shoemaker undertook the digitisation of the surviving editions of the Old Bailey Proceedings, with the object to create a searchable resource in a form accessible to the public and free at the point of use. Last year, 2015, was the anniversary of the launch of the first database in 2005.
Towards the end of this fascinating study, Heather Shore reflects on the difficulty of ‘trying to uncover or reconstruct something that does not exist in a concrete form’ (p. 192). For Shore, the ‘underworld’ is a ‘cipher’, through which the press, the police, the government, and the wider society represents, and tries to understand, crime as a social problem.
In August 1569, Queen Elizabeth I roundly rebuked James Stewart, earl of Moray, then regent to the three-year-old James VI, for presuming that 'ther were any equalitie … betwixt us and yow' (p. 232).
In 1859, after decades of religious turmoil in Europe, the Vatican was faced with shocking allegations against one of its convents in Rome. Princess Katharina Von Hohenzollern-Sigmaringen, a German princess, claimed that the convent she had entered, Sant’ Ambrogio, practised a forbidden cult, and that the novice mistress, Maria Luisa had tried to kill her by poisoning.
This volume, of 24 articles previously published elsewhere by Peter Edbury, covers subjects upon which years of dedicated research have made him an authority. It is a delight to see collected here for the first time some of the most essential and insightful works that have been a leading part of Edbury’s detailed investigations for the past decade and more.
Desan’s fascinating book approaches the only seemingly obvious act of ‘making money’ by examining what it actually means to ‘make money’. While Desan does acknowledge the physical act involved in this process, such as the striking of coins and the printing of bills, her primary focus is to study what gave money value and validated it as a reliable medium of egalitarian exchange.