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Key Reading

  • Clive Emsley, Crime and Society in England, 1750-1900, chapter 10

Secondary Sources

Further reading on prisons may be found here.

  • Anne Brunon-Ernst, Beyond Foucault: New Perspectives on Bentham's Panopticon
  • Thom Brooks, Punishment
  • Michel Foucault, Discipline and Punish: the Birth of the Prison
  • D. Garland, Punishment and Welfare: A History of Penal Strategies See also for Garland's view on contemporary prisons his Culture of Control.
  • Christoper Harding, ‘'The Inevitable End of a Discredited System'? The Origins of the Gladstone Committee Report on Prisons, 1895’, Historical Journal, 31 (1988), pp. 591-608
  • Michael Ignatieff, A Just Measure of Pain: The Penitentiary in the Industrial Revolution
  • Michael Ignatieff, ‘The Ideological Origins of the Penitentiary’, in Gregor McLennan and Jennie Pawson, Crime and Society: Readings in History and Theory
  • Michael Macilwee,The Liverpool Underworld : Crime in the City, 1750–1900 , ch 3
  • R. McGowen, ‘Civilising Punishment: The End of the Public Execution in England’, Journal of British Studies, 33 (1994), pp. 257-82
  • Dario Melossi and Massimo Pavarini, The Prison and the Factory: Origins of the Penitentiary System
  • James Moore, 'Reformative rhetoric and the exercise of corporal power : Alexander Maconochie's regime at Birmingham prison, 1849–51', Historical Research 89 (2016), pp. 510-530
  • Marie Mulvey-Roberts, ‘Militancy, masochism or martyrdom? The public and private prisons of Constance Lytton’ in June Purvis and Sandra Stanley Holton, (eds), Votes for Women
  • J. Muncie, ‘Prison Histories: Reform, Repression and Rehabilitation’, in Eugene McLaughlin and J. Muncie (eds), Controlling Crime
  • G. Peebles, 'Washing Away the Sins of Debt : The Nineteenth-Century Eradication of the Debtors' Prison', Comparative Studies in Society and History (2013)
  • Philip Priestley, Victorian Prison Lives
  • June Purvis, ‘The Prison Experiences of the Suffragettes in Edwardian Britain’, Women’s History Review, 4 (1995), pp. 103-33
  • B. Vaughan, ‘Punishment and Conditional Citizenship’, Punishment and Society, 2 (2000), pp. 23-39
  • Lucia Zedner, Women, Crime and Custody in Victorian England


  • Was the prison an instrument for discipline and social control?
  • Does the concept of 'penal welfarism' [Garland] accurately sum up the late Victorian prison regime?
  • Do current theories of punishment (see Brooks) have historical origins?
  • Does the architecture and layout of Victorian prisons have ideological foundations?
  • Does Bentham's panopticon represent the development of a disciplinary society based on surveillance or a humanitarian experiment in penal reform?
  • Does punishment become more 'humanitarian' over the period?
  • Why was the use of the death penalty reduced?
  • What was the Pentonville system of discipline and did it work?
  • What was life in prison like for the Victorian convict?
  • Was prison a place for punishment or reform of offenders?
  • Why did prison discipline become more severe after the 1860s?
  • Was the Victorian penitentiary experiment a failure?