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A History of Torture in Britain (Hardback)

British History True Crime

By Simon Webb
Imprint: Pen & Sword History
Pages: 145
ISBN: 9781526719294
Published: 5th November 2018

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There is an ancient and quite baseless myth that the use of torture has never been legal in Britain. This old wives' tale arose because torture had been neither endorsed nor forbidden by either statute or common law. In other words; the law has, until the late twentieth century, never had anything to say on the subject. In fact, torture, inflicted both as punishment and as an aid to interrogation, has been a constant and recurring feature of British life; from the beginning of the country's recorded history, until well into the twentieth century. Even as late as 1976, the European Court of Human Rights ruled that the British Army was guilty of the systematic torture of suspected terrorists.

In 'A History of Torture in Britain' Simon Webb traces the terrible story of the deliberate use of pain on prisoners in Britain and its overseas possessions. Beginning with the medieval trial by ordeal, which entailed carrying a red-hot iron bar in your bare hand for a certain distance, through to the stretching on the rack of political prisoners and the mutilation of those found guilty of sedition; the evidence clearly shows that Britain has relied heavily upon torture, both at home and abroad, for almost the whole of its history. This sweeping and authoritative account of a grisly and distasteful subject is likely to become the definitive history of the judicial infliction of pain in Britain and its Empire.

Overall this was an interesting and engaging read. It provides vivid descriptions of a variety of different torture methods used past and present throughout the British Isles and doesn’t fail to confront the very real horrors perpetuated by the British Empire throughout history.

NetGalley, reviewed by Lucy Angel (Educator)

I really enjoyed this book and learning about the methods of torture and their historical uses.

I feel it's such a specialised subject and this book would be suited to someone who had a lot of patience though, and not someone who wants a lighter read.

NetGalley, reviewed by Emma Potter
 Simon Webb
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