Welcome! We invite you to join us for this two-day conference on prisons and incarceration in England, 1500-1850, that is taking place at Keble College, Oxford, UK on the 15th and 16th of July 2019.

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–our 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 speakers employ a myriad of approaches in studying imprisonment, and the conference will encompass the complete range of prisons that existed in this period, beyond the penitentiary, including lock-ups, roundhouses, compters or counters, gaols, houses of correction or bridewells and prison hulks. Together, our speakers seek to explain the role that imprisonment and prisoners played in English society, economy and political life.

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.

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.

Do get in touch (see below) if you have any questions.

KeyNote Speakers

We are very lucky to have two keynote speakers:

  • Professor Rachel Weil (Cornell University, New York, USA)
  • Professor Joanna Innes (Oxford University, UK).

‘The Harlot’s Progress’ (a possibly unauthorised re-engraving, in reverse of Hogarth’s original, engraved by Bickham, Mynde and Smith, London Metropolitan Archives,

Essential Information

WHEN: 15-16 July 2019. Conference will start at 10am on the 15th and 9:30am on the 16th.

WHERE: Pusey Room, Keble College, Oxford.

Ask at Porter’s Lodge for directions.

Registration Fees? None. But please do RSVP so we have a sense of numbers.

Elevation and Plan of Newgate (1800),


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