The Penitentiary Ten

The Penitentiary Ten
The Transformation of the English Prison, 1770�1850
By Neil Davie

December 2016, hardback, 580 pp.
ISBN: 978-1-905622-51-1


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The Penitentiary Ten takes a fresh look at a key moment in British criminal justice history: the eighty-year period after 1770 which saw the emergence of a new conception of the Prison as a privileged site of punishment and reform. The book examines the contribution of ten men and women - the "Penitentiary Ten" of the title - to the wide-ranging debates of these years. Beginning with a reassessment of the thought and action of pioneering amateur prison inspector, John Howard, the book then turns to consider how the remaining Nine attempted to see their revolutionary ideas concerning carceral architecture and management realised on the ground in bricks and mortar. The Penitentiary Ten has then a double focus. In part it is an exercise in individual or collective biography, in part a study of the history of such prisons as Pentonville, Newgate and Millbank - not to mention Jeremy Bentham's ill-fated national penitentiary, the Panopticon. Each chapter examines how different individual trajectories crossed those of particular prisons; with what consequences for both, as well as for the broader history of penal policy in England. Some of the Penitentiary Ten were professionals with a career in prison design and/or management; others came to the field by accident. Some like Howard, Bentham or Elizabeth Fry were well-known to contemporaries; others, like George Holford or George L. Chesterton, were not. Some have been the subject of prolonged and detailed interest on the part of historians; some have largely escaped critical notice. All, argues Neil Davie, made a major contribution to both the theory and practice of prison reform in England in the period 1770-1850. Emphasising the complexity and variety of the forces at work in penal policy during this period, and the halting, often contradictory, trends and impulses which resulted, The Penitentiary Ten offers a lively, accessible account of prison reform in this crucial period, and is sure to interest both students and teachers of British criminal justice history as well as the interested general reader.

"The Penitentiary Ten is a fascinating work which skilfully interweaves the biographies of some of the most influential actors in the evolution of imprisonment at an important moment in its history. This study explores the development of prison in both philosophical and architectural form using case studies to unravel the competing narratives underpinning prison reform from the late 18th to the mid 19th century. Importantly, this thesis illuminates those who put theory into practice, those who envisioned the new 'penitentiary' and those who saw it, or failed to see it, come to fruition."
—Dr Helen Johnston, University of Hull, UK

"Since the days of Michel Foucault prison reformers have been a kind of suspects. Neil Davie looks at them and the institutions they sponsored with a fresh eye, arriving at a balanced assessment that transcends the dichotomy of praise or blame."
—Professor Pieter Spierenburg, Erasmus University Rotterdam, Netherlands

"[An] excellent depiction of the evolution of penal thought and action in the century or so that followed the debates of the 1770s. [...] The issues examined in this book [...] remain timely, perhaps timeless. Commanding and certainly worthy of our attention, they should lead us to humility even while they stimulate and only partly satisfy our curiosity. As we contemplate the lives and times that Neil Davie spreads before us, we find examples of many of the puzzles that continue to engage and baffle. Heroism and self-abnegation take their place alongside egoism and intolerant, stubborn dogmatism; compassion alongside studied callousness; hope alongside disengagement; humane morality alongside a sterile political economy."
—From the preface by Professor Seán McConville, Queen Mary, University of London, UK

About the Author:

Neil Davie is Professor of British History at Université Lumière Lyon 2, France. After studying sociology, anthropology and social history at the universities of Durham and Oxford, he moved to France where he has been living and teaching since 1988. He has published widely in the field
of British history, principally on penal policy and criminology in the Victorian and Edwardian periods, and has also written on the history of science and women’s history. He is the author of Tracing the Criminal: The Rise of Scientific Criminology in Britain, 1860–1918 (Bardwell Press, 2005) and L’Evolution de la condition féminine en Grande-Bretagne à travers les textes juridiques fondamentaux de 1830 à 1975 (ENS Editions, 2011).


Preface by Seán McConville
Introduction: When was the Prison?

Chapter One: The Philanthropist
Chapter Two: The High Sheriff and the Architect
Chapter Three: The Philosopher
Chapter Four: The Politician
Chapter Five: The Governor
Chapter Six: The Inspectors and the Visitor
Chapter Seven: The Engineer


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