Early Modern Prisons

Exploring gaols, bridewells and other forms of detention, 1500-1800
Rachel Weil
Richard Bell
Type: 
project

Early Modern Prisons is a collective effort to find out what it was like to be locked up in the early modern period. We are interested in the economics and government of the prison, the fees, the food, how alcohol was sold, how news circulated, diseases, smells, sex, lice, irons, close confinement, charity, garnish, ancient privileges, violence, how prisoners organized and protested.  We want to know what practices of detention tell us about contemporary notions of freedom and unfreedom, and how places of detention figure in the great early modern political debates about rights, tyranny, abuse, freedom and legality.

We are interested in all kinds of prisoners, from debtors to convicts, from prisoners of war to inmates of bridewells and plague houses.

This site is primarily about English prisons, because that is what we work on. But we would love to get a comparative discussion going. So, if you have something to share about prisons elsewhere in the early modern world, please comment or write or offer us a guest post.

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