Development of the prison in modern British society as a response to endemic panic about crime, 1750-1850
Ramsay, Malcolm N.P.
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This thesis attempts to throw fresh light on the nature of present-day deviance and social control by providing a historical perspective. It is postulated that there has been incessant panic about "crime" for some two hundred years. Alarm of this kind is reflected in systematic mass imprisonment, by which, in turn, such feelings are themselves perpetuated. Accordingly, in this thesis, both historical and sociological techniques are utilised. The sociology of moral enterprise being the point of departure for this thesis, Chapter One discusses this literature in so far as it is relevant to the thrust of the enquiry. Chapter Two, using a long run of court records and other sources, looks at some of the final manifestations of a less obsessive attitude towards lawbreakers, in the eighteenth century, when Britain was still only on the threshold of industrialisation. Social control, as exemplified by prosecution in the courts, was then a matter for individuals, rather than a function of the state. Similarly, there was no generic concept of "criminals" as a class: only individual lawbreakers were recognised. Chapter Three examines the ideological underpinning of "crime" as perceived in a capitalist society. Particular attention is paid to the development of the nascent press, notably the ordinary of Newgate's Account, the Gentleman's Magazine and the London Magazine, as a means of disseminating panic. This is complemented by an examination of the writings of prominent ideological entrepreneurs, such as William Eden and Martin Madan, who were animated by, and themselves exacerbated, this same concern. Chapter Four traces the way the prison was presented as the cure for crime. A case study of Gloucester prison, drawing on unpublished manuscripts, allows comparison between aims and actualities: many of the problems facing modern prisons emerged in this initial experiment with incarceration. Chapter Five discusses essential elements of continuity in the perception of crime and punishment from the late eighteenth century onwards. The growing involvement of the state is traced, from the very "beginning of mass imprisonment. In conclusion, it is suggested that customary views of social control, in which imprisonment features conspicuously, in the course of time have obtained a degree of mystification which places them "beyond questioning or ready understanding. The historical perspective adopted in this thesis marks an attempt to de-mystify not only the prison as an institution "but also general views about "crime" with which its existence is associated.