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15 - Prison Reform in France and Other European Countries in the Nineteenth Century

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  05 January 2013

Norbert Finzsch
Affiliation:
Universität Hamburg
Robert Jütte
Affiliation:
Universität Hamburg
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Summary

Historians of nineteenth-century Europe study prisons for a variety of reasons: They want to learn about how national authority functioned, how the modern state - and the welfare state - took root, how deviance was defined, how sensibilities were transformed, how economic systems were mirrored in new modes of punishment, how the self-contained “individual” took shape amidst the proliferation of state institutions. In the last two decades historians have chosen to disagree over whether to stress economic determinants or political influences or cultural values in explaining why prisons were created, how they functioned, and whether they succeeded or failed in their defined purposes.

In spite of the diversity of concerns, a growing emphasis on the modern prison as part of a repertoire of national cultural practices has taken shape over the last twenty years. Michelle Perrot and her French collaborators demonstrate how cultural assumptions about gender and class entered nineteenth-century prisons. John A. Davis uncovers how the expectations of the propertied and professional classes in nineteenth-century Italy drove demands for more secure and effective prisons. Michael Ignatieff characterizes the new English penitentiaries as weapons of class conflict. Robert Roth argues that the prison of Geneva was the consequence of mounting political pressure from liberal reformers who wanted to reshape society. Other examples proliferate, either of studies of the prison as a monolithic bureaucratic administration or of monographs about individual prisons scrutinized, much as villages have been by rural historians, on a case-by-case basis to get at the network of social relations enclosed within their walls.

Type
Chapter
Information
Institutions of Confinement
Hospitals, Asylums, and Prisons in Western Europe and North America, 1500–1950
, pp. 285 - 300
Publisher: Cambridge University Press
Print publication year: 1997

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