do you think of when we talk about punishments today? Try making a list
of all the methods used to punish criminals in the early 21st century.
The chances are it will include some, or all, of the following. A prison
or other custodial sentence, community service, payment of a fine, imposition
of a curfew or passing of an Anti-Social Behaviour Order (ASBO). Most
of these punishments seem to have been in use for a long time but this
is not the case. In fact, most are fairly modern inventions - even sending
criminals to prison was not common until the Victorian era.
the middle of the 17th century to the mid-19th century, the only people
you would find in prison were debtors, minor criminals such as vagrants,
people awaiting trial and those awaiting the hangman's noose. The law
had a whole host of other methods of punishing criminals at its disposal,
including whipping, sentencing offenders to hard labour, transportation
and imposing the death sentence. Unlike today where considerable effort
is made to reform the criminal, the underlying principle of 18th and
19th punishment was to punish the offender and demonstrate to others
what would happen if they too broke the law.
order to look more closely at the nature of punishment and how it changed
over time, we're going to look at how people were punished in the 18th
century, what differences there were by the mid-19th
century and study one
man's experience of prison in the latter part of the 19th century.