Interesting article on the history of imprisonment for debt: Dr Philip Woodfine (University of Huddersfield) - Debtors, Prisons, and Petitions in Eighteenth-Century England - Eighteenth-Century Life 30:2 Eighteenth-Century Life 30.2 (2006) 1-31

14 DEC 2010

I have recently happened across the following article on debtors' prisons and thought it might also be of interest to blog readers. Here is the citation and abstract:

Dr Philip Woodfine (University of Huddersfield) - Debtors, Prisons, and Petitions in Eighteenth-Century England - Eighteenth-Century Life (2006) 30:2 Eighteenth-Century Life 30.2. pp-1-31.

"Drawing on manuscript sources including the petitions of prisoners, mainly in the county of Yorkshire, this article sets out to suggest a darker view than is customary of what prison life was like for eighteenth-century debtors. An important recent book by Margot Finn, by contrast, may leave the unwary reader with an overly sanguine view of prison conditions. Finn skillfully highlights the cultural richness of prison life, the loose, custodial forms of management, and even a kind of autonomy enjoyed by some debtors, extending as far as their own choice to enter or remain in prison (109–51). This exploration of the agency available to prisoners draws attention to features of eighteenth-century imprisonment that distinguished it from the penal systems that followed. Finn's very success in recreating the vitality of debtors' lives and outlook, though, may lead her readers to downplay the harshness of the prisoners' lot. A corrective is called for. We need to give due weight to some basic facts about the prisons in which debtors were confined, and the regimes that they encountered there."

 

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