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torture in England (was questions)

Poster: jsrechts@imap.unc.edu

One question which Pedro partially addressed was:  1) Other than stocks,
pilories, hangings and decapitation, what other tortures were publically
during the reign of Henry VII through Eliz I.?  Pedro mentioned England
not being a torture prone kingdom and the use of peine forte et dure.

There are two issues here, the first, torture as punishment and second,
torture as a way of securing a conviction and both are different.  Most
public punishments were corporal but that doesn't necessarily constitute
torture, it's more
"cruel and unusual punishment" (though then it wasn't seen that way
then).  In otherwords, one wasn't put on a rack as punishment for a
crime.  The legally sanctioned use of torture was introduced to England
during the reign of Edward II during the Templar trials.  Some sources
said that it was not a practice that was gleefully undertaken but
came into being due to pressure from rulers (secular and ecclesiastical)
outside of England.  Torture of suspects became more routine during the
the Tudor Era, especially Henry VIII and Eliz's. reigns.  Elizabeth's
reign was particularily harsh for those who did not agree with her
She was essentially a Renaissance Stalin.  These interrogations were not
public and were incredibly brutal.  It also depended on what you were
being tried for and who you were.  If one was accused of say, stealing a
cow, one could pay for a lawyer (or be lucky enough to have one working
pro bono) along with having a trial by jury.  
If one was arrested for treason, the circumstances changed.  One notable
aspect during the Tudor era was that those accused of treason were for
the most part, not permitted to have a lawyer.

On the Continent (especially Germany), the use of torture became much
more widespread and legally sanctioned during the Renaissance.  
Of course, there is a big difference between the formal, legal use of
torture vs. extrajudicial use torture of suspects.  It's similar to the
use of torture today, some countries ban it, others allow torture as
part of the judicial process, many ban torture but it's employed anyway.


Jessica Rechtschaffer
Curriculum of Comparative Literature
CB# 3150 Dey Hall
UNC-Chapel Hill
Chapel Hill, NC  27599-3150
Phone: (919) 962-1055
Fax:  (919) 962-5166
email: jsrechts@email.unc.edu

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