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

Imprisoned without Trial: Remembering John Bernardi

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

Grates and Keys: Violence in Early Modern Prisons, Part II

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

Looking for Women in 18th-Century Newgate

We tend to think of prisons as male spaces. So I'm trying an experiment. I will return to material I wrote about in my previous post, When Prisoners Complain, but I'll focus on the women this time. As you'll recall from that last post, in 1702 and again in 1707, some Newgate prisoners informed the … Continue reading Looking for Women in 18th-Century Newgate

When Prisoners Complain

Complaints from prisoners, and magistrates' investigations of them, are among our most valuable sources for early modern prisons. But when a small number of prisoners made a complaint, for whom did they speak?  To what extent do our archives reflect the issues prisoner's prioritized, to what extent do they reflect the concerns of the magistrates, … Continue reading When Prisoners Complain