Capital Punishment in Britain

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Ian Allan, 2009 - History - 336 pages
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Capital punishment has played its part as the ultimate judicial penalty in the UK for centuries. This unique book meticulously examines the ominous origins of this horrific tradition, and the arguments behind society's final punishment. Often a macabre, graphic exercise in physical mutilation, capital punishment was once a highly popular form of entertainment for the masses, as well as serving the death penalty to murderers - man, woman and child alike. Within the pages of this chilling book, these condemned victims and the methods in which they met their plight come to life once more. The death penalty is examined in its different guises through the centuries, from execution methods pre-1800 by hanging - both individual and multiple, hanging, drawing and quartering for the charge of high treason, to other sickening alternatives which included burning, boiling alive and use of the dreaded Halifax gibbet, precursor to the Guillotine. Witches fell to watery graves through violent drownings, whilst damned women were often pressed slowly to death. Execution methods after 1800 are also examined, with reference to specific cases. Criminals were made to pay for their crimes by hanging in the drop gallows or being slowly hung, drawn and quartered, whilst in later decades during World War 1 and 2 soldiers and spies were mercilessly shot to death in the Tower of London. Other chapters examine the infamous places of public execution such as Tyburn and Newgate, the details of the legal acts involved such as The Bloody Code and The Black Acts, and the grotesque procedure for the execution of youths. Grisly post mortem punishments are revealed, where hapless victims were left gibbeting before being brutally dissected or anatomised. The role of the hangman and his assistants is studied, with the gory training procedures detailed. Modern developments are also taken into account, with an analysis of the reduction of executions with the introduction of railways, a chapter on 20th century executions and reprieves, as well as descriptions of the last executions in the UK, and the final abolition of capital punishment. Perfect for social historians and those with an interest in the macabre, or for anyone eager to discover the darker side of justice.

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