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In this introductory seminar we will discuss the module as a whole, negotiate topics for the remainder of the year, and discuss our existing ideas of what 'crime' and 'punishment' meant in the 19th century. We will then explore a brief history of prisons based on the readings assigned.

Seminar Questions

  • Was the prison an instrument for discipline and social control? How was the prison different from, or similar to other institutions in the period?
  • Does Bentham's panopticon represent the development of a disciplinary society based on surveillance or a humanitarian experiment in penal reform?
  • Did prison discipline become more severe or humanitarian after the 1860s?
  • Was the Victorian penitentiary experiment a failure?

Optional Intro Material

  • PODCAST: 'Prison of the Mind', The Weird History Podcast (2015) []

Key Reading

Recommended Reading - pick one bold item to read and discuss in class.

Further reading on prisons may be found here.

  • Anne Brunon-Ernst (ed.), Beyond Foucault: New Perspectives on Bentham's Panopticon (London: Routledge, 2012).
  • Thom Brooks, Punishment (Abingdon: Routledge, 2012).
  • Michel Foucault, Discipline and Punish: the Birth of the Prison [1975] (London: Penguin, 2020) part 4, 'Prisons'. (This is a very difficult read so no pressure!!)
  • D. Garland, Punishment and Welfare: A History of Penal Strategies (New Orleans: Quid Pro Books, 2018). See also for Garland's view on contemporary prisons his Culture of Control (Oxford University Press, 2002).
  • 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, 1750-1850 (London: Macmillan, 1978).
  • Michael Ignatieff, ‘The Ideological Origins of the Penitentiary’, in Gregor McLennan and Jennie Pawson, Crime and Society: Readings in History and Theory (London: Routledge, 1981).
  • Michael Macilwee,The Liverpool Underworld : Crime in the City, 1750-1900 (Liverpool University Press, 2011), ch 3 'Prison and Punishment'.
  • 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 40th anniversary edition (Basingstoke: Palgrave, 2021).
  • 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 (London: Routledge, 1999).
  • J. Muncie, ‘Prison Histories: Reform, Repression and Rehabilitation’, in Eugene McLaughlin and J. Muncie (eds), Controlling Crime (London: SAGE, 2001).
  • 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 Revised Edition (London: Vintage, 2012).
  • 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 (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 2001).