Academic Article

Blaming it on the past: Usages of the Middle Ages in contemporary discourses of the death penalty in England

By Death Penalty Research Unit (DPRU), University of Oxford, on 5 February 2024

Published in December 2023.

In popular, intellectual and political culture, the Middle Ages are intrinsically tied to violent images of public executions. To historians of the medieval period, this temporal attachment of the death penalty to a remote period is puzzling, especially since it is still widely enforced in the world today and was only relatively recently abolished in Europe. Capital punishment is not only a part of history, but a modern-day reality. Why, therefore, do we pin this punishment to the Middle Ages? This paper aims to analyse the discourses surrounding the usage of the Middle Ages in modern discussions on the death penalty, and to clarify medieval practices of capital punishment, showing how remote they are from our contemporary understanding

  • Document type Academic Article
  • Countries list United Kingdom