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The Spectacle of Suffering
Executions and the Evolution of Repression: From a Preindustrial metropolis to the European Experience


  • Date Published: November 2008
  • availability: Available
  • format: Paperback
  • isbn: 9780521089647

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About the Authors
  • Present-day unease about the treatment of lawbreakers has deep historical roots. Pieter Spierenburg traces the long period of evolution that gave rise to the modern debate about punishment, and relates it to the development of Western European society. He argues that two elements, the public character of punishment and its infliction of physical suffering, were originally at the heart of the penal system. From the sixteenth century onwards, however, these elements began to decline. Spierenburg explains that this development reflected a wider change of attitudes which, in turn, was related to changes in society at large. The book deals successively with each of the parties involved in public executions: the hangman, the magistrates, the crowd, and the victim. Among the themes dicussed are the infamous reputation of the excutioner, the functions of ceremonial, and the social background of those about to suffer.

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    Product details

    • Date Published: November 2008
    • format: Paperback
    • isbn: 9780521089647
    • length: 288 pages
    • dimensions: 229 x 152 x 16 mm
    • weight: 0.43kg
    • availability: Available
  • Table of Contents

    1. The emergence of criminal justice
    2. The actors: executioners and their status
    3. The stagers: the authorities and the dramatisation of executions
    4. The watchers: spectators at the scaffold
    5. The victims: delinquents and their penalties in Republican Amsterdam
    6. The disappearance of public executions

  • Author

    Pieter Spierenburg

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