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The Prison Experience

The Prison Experience: Disciplinary Institutions and Their Inmates in Early Modern Europe

Pieter Spierenburg
Copyright Date: 2007
Pages: 358
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  • Book Info
    The Prison Experience
    Book Description:

    The prison occupies a central position in the penal systems of modern countries. Many scholars believed -before the appearance of this book- that imprisonment did not become a major judicial sanction until the nineteenth century and the correction that Pieter Spierenburg provides is still pertinent today. First as a disciplinary institution and later as a penal option, the prison has played an important role in European societies from the late sixteenth century onward. Spierenburg traces the evolution of the prison during the early moden period, with particular emphasis on the prisons of the Netherlands, Germany, and France, but with reference to all of Europe. Spierenburg looks at the daily lives of inmates, a focus that is unusual in historical studies of prisons. He also analyzes the long-term nature of change in prisons and the conceptions of prisoners as persons who had broken away from their family bonds. His work adds to our understanding of social change and daily life in early modern Europe and will appeal to historians, sociologists, and criminologists.

    eISBN: 978-90-485-0184-7
    Subjects: History, Law

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
    (pp. None)
    Elisabeth Lissenberg
  3. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
    (pp. vii-viii)
    (pp. ix-x)
    (pp. xi-xiv)

    • 1 INTRODUCTION: A Process Approach to Prison History
      (pp. 1-11)

      The prison experience profoundly influenced the lives of ordinary inmates, but it also affected guards, managers, and policymakcrs. tn a second sense, the concept refers to the experience of every group in society with a new punirive insrirntion.MostEuropean nations became accustomed to it in the course of the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries. The overall impact of imprisonment in early modern Europe: is the subject of this book. Such a wide perspective makes it imperative to begin with a statement that certain themes will not be dealt with. The purpose of this chapter is threefold:

      1) to locate the...

    • 2 IDLENESS AND LABOR: The Emergence of Prisons in Early Modern Europe
      (pp. 12-38)

      The earliest prisons were established in the second half of the sixteenth century and the beginning of the seventeenth century in England, the Netherlands, and a handful of North German and Baltic towns. Simultaneously, other forms of bondage gained a foothold in Southern Europe. The purpose of this chapter is to explain these developments. To do so, we have to go back in time and take account of a broader context. Our first mquiry will be into the precursors of imprisonment; the second into the mental climate in which prisons were founded and the society.

      The key word is idleness....


    • 3 THE PERIOD OF EXPERIMENTATION: Prison Workhouses on the Continent, 1588-1650
      (pp. 41-68)

      It all began with a young man of sixteen named Evert Jans. At a loss what to do with him, Amsterdam'sschepcnen, the town judges, consulted the burgomasters and suggested that a house be built to keep such persons in custody. The advice set a chain of events in motion which ultimately led to the opening of a prison early in 1596. In turn, this triggered a confinement movement in other towns of the Northern and Southern Netherlands and the Holy Roman Empire. Amsterdam was the starting point for the movement in Continental Europe, and the workhouse mood was developed...

    • 4 IN THE MARGINS OF SETTLED LIFE: Imprisonment and the Repression of Begging and Vagrancy
      (pp. 69-86)

      Throughout the seventeenth century the troubles beggars and vagrants caused to the settled population were mentioned most often as the major motivation for the erection of prison workhouses. This was especially so during the wave of reopenings and new foundations in the Dutch Republic around 1660. It comes as no surprise. A change of attitudes toward marginal people lay behind the emergence of prison workhouses in Europe. Consequently, marginals were a major category of inmates during the early years and continued to be present throughout the Ancien Régime. Several recent studies inform us about the way these people lived at...

    • 5 PRISONS AND THE IMAGINATION: The Public Image, the Miracles of St. Raspinus, and the Pumping Myth
      (pp. 87-104)

      The purpose of this book is to srudy mentalities, and in this chapter they are particularly central. Its aim is to penetrate into the areas of representation, ideology, and imagination in an attempt to reconstruct the imprint imprisonment made on people’s minds. I will start with a general discussion of the way prisons were presented to the public. Next, with reference to the Amsterdam rasphollse, I will present two imaginative constructions-in the form of a propaganda pamphlet and the myth of pwnping or drowning-the influence of which extended far beyond the Dutch Republic.

      Justice had to be visible in the...

    • 6 THE PRISON AS A HOUSEHOLD: Management, Forced Labor, and the Economy
      (pp. 105-134)

      From mythology and representation wc: rerum to the concrete realities of daily routine. We will continue to view the instirntions from the outside, though; inrernallife is the subject of chapter eight. This chapter deals with the administrative and economic management of prison workhouses. Such a vast topic requires limitations. Two major problems will structure the discussion: onc situated within the realm of mentalities, and the other resuJting from me necessity to relate this realm to the development of society generally. The first problem regards the management of prisons the assignment of management roles and what this tells us about perceptions...

    • 7 THIEVES, PROSTITUTES, AND AGGRESSORS: The Evolution of Imprisonment as a Penal Sanction
      (pp. 135-170)

      According to the household model, labor served as punishment within a paternalistic context. Economic considerations were subordinate to penal ones. This chapter will demonstrate that prison workhouses increasingly acquired the character of judiCial institutions. Though the creation of a disciplined work force in the interest of economic growth was not their principal function, they served to keep troublesome persons from the streets. Originally, the prison policies focused on beggars and vagrants especially, although in the Republic criminal offenders were among the inmates from an early date. This has been discussed in previous chapters. We now have to inquire into the...

    • 8 THE PRISON EXPERIENCE: Internal Life from Above and from Below
      (pp. 171-220)

      Internal life in prison deserves attention for at least (Wo reasons. For a mentalities srudy such as the present one, it is a central subject. Historians have told us how preindustrial peasants lived and worked, what artisans thought and did, and in which way vagabonds at large spent their days. Comparable studies on prisoners are lacking. Second, the subject is equally relevant to the history of penal systems. Controlling the sequence of events within a prison is a form of enforcement of judicial sanctions, and that has always been somewhat problematic. Banished offenders may return and scaffolrled delinquents may not...


    • 9 ELITES AND THE POOR: Private Confinement: The Environment
      (pp. 223-237)

      The image of early modern prisons as pseudohouseholds was one of the dominant themes of Part Two. Vagrants, thieves, and other inmates-persons whose offense was considered connected to their lack of nannal family life restraints-were punished within a paternalistic setting. This was partly a matter of symbolism. Moreover, in another, more direct way, prison life could be viewed as an alternative to an existence within the bosom of the family. Here we are referring to those persons whose own fathers, wives, or children decided they required a stay in the institution. These inmates were punished because their relatives were no...

    • 10 DRUNKS, REVELLERS, AND THE INSANE: Private Confinement: The Prisoners
      (pp. 238-256)

      Who were the victims of the ultimate remedy of family discipline:, and why? What was their fate once they had been securely locked away? To complete our picture of private confinement wc need an answer to these questions. To a certain extent, the experience of the prisoners involved can be inferred from the discussion in Part Two. The household model, for example, and the dynamics of internallifc from above and below affected private prisoners, too, when they stayed in instirotions with forced labor. There is no need to repeat that story. Only the new element, the separate regime, requires attention...


    • 11 CROSSROADS: Bondage and the Penal System in Western Europe
      (pp. 259-276)

      Part One of this study considered the origins of the prison system from the broad perspective of Western Europe as a whole. Part Two mainly dealt with the Republic and the Empire, the core-area afthe prison workhouse. Part Three extended the scope of the investigation notably to France. Part Four takes up the broad perspective of the first again, in an attempt to sketch penal developments in Western Europe as a whole from the seventeenth century to the early nineteenth. The aim of this chapter is to examine the existing literature to determine whether a parallel development to that observed...

    • 12 CONCLUSION: Imprisorunent, Mentalities, and Social Change
      (pp. 277-282)

      The final chapter rerurns to the framework outlined in the first: a process-oriented approach to the history of imprisonment and repression generally. We have gone from the theoretical to the empirical, and now come back to theory again. Chapter Two discussed the emergence in the late sixteenth ccnmry of imprisonment and other spatial solutions to problems of marginality, deviance, and crime, and explained this development with reference to pacification and state formation processes. The empirical data in parts Two and Three corroborated this thesis, but they also raised new problems. Other factors besides state formation have to be taken into...

  11. NOTES
    (pp. 283-316)
    (pp. 317-320)
    (pp. 321-334)
  14. INDEX
    (pp. 335-340)
  15. Back Matter
    (pp. 341-342)