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The public execution of criminals was of major importance in 18th century England and was widely held at the time to be fundamental to crime control. But public execution was not simply a symbol of past barbarism. The ceremonials surrounding public execution changed over time, the numbers of people executed also changed markedly, while the conduct of the condemned on the scaffold and the reactions of execution crowds could vary markedly.
What is less widely realised is the extent of other forms of public punishment – public whipping, the pillory, the ducking stool and the public penances inflicted by the ecclesiastical courts. Join James Sharpe, an expert on the history of crime and punishment, as he traces not only how public execution declined and was eventually abolished in 1868, but also how this process compared with the decline of other forms of public punishment. In so doing, he asks questions about changes in attitudes to pain, suffering and violence more generally.
Professor James Sharpe is a social historian of early modern England. He took his BA and his DPhil at Oxford and joined the University of York as a lecturer in 1973. He has published 11 books and over 60 scholarly articles and essays, and has an acknowledged expertise in the history of crime and punishment, of witchcraft in England, and of violence. His major study of the long-term history of violence, A Fiery & Furious People, will be published by Random House in September 2016.