Radicalism, Respectability, and the Case of the Imprisoned Politician

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

England’s Island Prisons

 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

Rethinking the meaning of imprisonment in the 1690s

  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

Further Thoughts on Coroner’s Inquests into Deaths in Custody

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

Early Modern Coroners’ 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.

Legal History Miscellany

Posted by Krista Kesselring, 9 July 2017.

Hollar Tower

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.[1] 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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Reading Megan Comfort’s Doing Time Together as an Early Modernist.

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.

Rape and Infanticide at the Halstead House of Correction

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