Towards New Histories of Imprisonment in England, 1500-1865

Kiran Mehta's picture
July 15, 2019 to July 16, 2019
United Kingdom
Subject Fields: 
British History / Studies, Early Modern History and Period Studies, Law and Legal History, Social History / Studies, Women's & Gender History / Studies

We invite you to attend an upcoming conference on prisons and incarceration, Towards New Histories of Imprisonment, 1500-1850, taking place at Keble College, University of Oxford, UK on the 15th and 16th of July 2019.

This conference is free to attend, and we will also be providing tea/coffee and lunch to all attendees. Please do register, here:

This conference will bring together senior academics and early career researchers to share their ongoing research into English imprisonment, discuss recent developments in the field, and set out new agendas for the history of prisons and imprisonment. This conference is interdisciplinary–the speakers are historians, literary scholars and criminologists–, spans a wide chronology, and takes an inclusive view of imprisonment, including not only criminal custody and incarceration, but also the imprisonment of debtors and prisoners of war. Our speaks consider not only the legal aspects of imprisonment, but also the literary outputs of prisoners, inmates' involvement in social, economic and political life, the gendered aspects of sentencing and prison confinement, and the role that local governments and the state played in managing these institutions.

Early scholars of imprisonment focused largely on the late-eighteenth and early-nineteenth centuries as it was this period, with the rise of the ‘prison reform’ movement and the development of the penitentiary, in which they located the origins of the modern prison. This historiographical focus on the prison as a distinctly modern mode of punishment has obscured its contingency upon practices, attitudes and ideologies that had developed over a much longer period. Moreover, it has left largely unexplored the sheer scale and variety of early imprisonment and its significance to modern development. By recovering the early modern prison in all its variants and situating this work alongside new studies on the prison’s later incarnations, we hope this conference will suggest alternative frameworks from which to study imprisonment, provide new interpretations of incarceration, and advance different chronologies for the prison and its evolution.

For more details, to get in touch or to see a draft program visit:

This conference is funded by the generosity of the Past and Present Society and Keble College, Oxford. It is organised by Dr. Richard Bell (Keble College, Oxford) and Kiran Mehta (Wolfson College, Oxford) and presented by the Keble Medieval and Renaissance Cluster.