Contested records: writing, custom and conflict in early modern prisons

The following post is based on a paper presented at "Writing Prisons: Literature and Constraint in Early Modern England," a mini-symposium held at Birkbeck in July (and kindly written up at the time by Brodie Waddell). In this post, I’d like to explore the role of writings and texts within early modern prisons. That is … Continue reading Contested records: writing, custom and conflict in early modern prisons

The persistent presence of the eighteenth century female debtor

We're pleased to present the following guest post by Alex Wakelam, a doctoral student in the Cambridge Group for the History of Population and Social Structure studying eighteenth-century female insolvency and the functioning of debt imprisonment. On the 11th December 1742, the young Samuel Foote arrived at London’s imposing Fleet debtors’ prison.[1] At the age of … Continue reading The persistent presence of the eighteenth century female debtor

Conference report: “Prisons and Prison Writing in Early Modern Britain”

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”

Profitable penitence: selling books for prisoners in seventeenth-century London

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

Imprisoned in print: John Lilburne and the (in)visibility of incarceration

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

Violence, horticulture and wordplay in the King’s Bench

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

Calls for Papers, 2017

Next year is already looking to be an exciting one for scholars of early modern imprisonment, with two upcoming conferences on the topic recently announced. The first is Prison/Exile: Controlled Spaces in Early Modern Europe, to be held at Ertegun House, University of Oxford on 10-11 March 2017. It aims to 'explore the relationship between space, identity, … Continue reading Calls for Papers, 2017