Whether it’s the recent mass death sentences handed down by the Egyptian judiciary after the ill-fated Arab Spring uprising, or US states having to delay executions of Death Row prisoners because European drug companies are refusing to supply them with the drugs required, capital punishment regularly dominates the news headlines.
Central to all of these stories is the publicity they receive. If you’re going to practice capital punishment as a deterrent – a claim still made despite statistics having shown that the death penalty has no effect on crime rates – then there’s no point doing it unless as many people as possible can find out about it. Now such information zips around the world on the internet. But how did people find out about crime and punishment in that era of spectacular public executions, the Renaissance?
In the early modern period, the majority of the European population was illiterate, and so more creative ways of broadcasting the horror were needed.… Read the rest