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Special issue - Histories of Punishment

A Prison Without Walls: Eastern Siberian Exile in the Last Years of Tsarism / Sarah Badcock

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Review Date: 08 June 2017

Sarah Badcock has made a name for herself as, alongside the likes of Aaron Retish, one seeking to spread and deepen our understanding of the Russian Revolution in hitherto under- or little-explored regions – both geographical (the Volga provinces) and social (the peasantry of European Russia’s periphery).


The Corrigible and the Incorrigible: Science, Medicine, and the Convict in Twentieth-Century Germany / Greg Eghigian

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Review Date: 20 April 2017

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.


London Lives: Poverty, Crime and the Making of a Modern City, 1690–1800 / Robert B. Shoemaker, Tim Hitchcock

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Review Date: 04 August 2016

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.


Banishment in the Early Atlantic World: Convicts, Rebels and Slaves / Peter Rushton, Gwenda Morgan

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Review Date: 20 February 2014

This book is a study of the exercise of imperial power in the early modern era and the way authorities at all levels moved, expelled, and transported people within the British Empire. Morgan and Rushton investigate some of the processes by which a wide variety of peoples under many different circumstances were forcibly moved.


Health, Medicine, and the Sea: Australian Voyages, c.1815-1860 / Katherine Foxhall

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Review Date: 30 May 2013

Military men, as histories of the Royal Navy in particular have shown, tend to be interested in controlling sanitary conditions. Among seamen, maintaining health was always essential otherwise ships could not remain at sea. The main theme of Dr. Katherine Foxhall’s interesting book is voyages to Australia.


The Old Bailey Proceedings Online / eds. Clive Emsley, Tim Hitchcock, Robert B. Shoemaker

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Review Date: 01 May 2010

The Proceedings of the Old Bailey have only been available to historians online since 2003 but, speaking as someone who probably visits the site two or three times a week, I am bound to wonder at how we all managed before then.


The Crisis of Imprisonment: Protest, Politics, and the Making of the American Penal State, 1776–1941 / Rebecca M. McLennan

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Review Date: 31 August 2009

This is an ambitious and weighty study of prisons, prison labour and penology from the early Republican period through the Depression years which McLennan argues has been characterised by ‘a long continuum of episodic instability, conflict, and political crisis’ (p. 2).


Gender, Crime and Empire: Convicts, Settlers and the State in Early Colonial Australia / Kirsty Reid

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Review Date: 01 November 2008

This study has several claims for attention, not least on account of its focus on Van Diemen’s Land from the time of its colonial beginnings as a place of secondary punishment from New South Wales in 1803 to the conclusion of direct transportation in 1853: the fifty years covered by the work offer a substantial analysis of the whole period of its existence as a penal…


Tyburn’s Martyrs: Execution in England 1675-1775 / Andrea McKenzie

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Review Date: 01 July 2008

Andrea McKenzie begins her preface to Tyburn's Martyrs by attempting to locate the 18th-century Tyburn execution in the broader modern cultural context. It is, she contends, the most familiar and evocative image from that century, synonymous with the brutality of a past age and viewed as a grotesque spectator sport to which horror and disgust seem to be the sole appropriate responses for modern sensibilities.


English Society and the Prison: Time, Culture and Politics in the Development of the Modern Prison, 1850–1920 /

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Review Date: 01 April 2005

Until 1975 those who wanted to study the history of English prisons turned to the standard work on the subject which was first published in 1922, English Prisons Under Local Government, by the two pioneers of the history of English Social Policy Sidney and Beatrice Webb.


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This special issue (put together by Katy Roscoe, Pearsall Fellow at the IHR) features reviews of histories of punishment, published both as books and as digital resources. They showcase the diversity of criminal sentencing practices the state has deployed to punish and deter crime, reform criminals, and extract labour from convicts. Alongside key texts on the emergence of the prison, it draws attention to the variety of punishments that have been used over the last few centuries, including transportation, prison hulks, juvenile reformatories, executions, and exile. The collection benefits from its global, if Anglo-centric, scope that includes America, Australia, Britain, Germany and Russia. These thirteen works all use crime and punishment as a lens through which to examine wider issues of class, age, gender, politics, science, and social change.

Special issues

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