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The History of Torture and Execution: From Early Civilization through Medieval Times to the Present Paperback – November 1, 2002


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The History of Torture and Execution: From Early Civilization through Medieval Times to the Present + The Catalog Of Cruelty: An Illustrated Collection Of Ancient Restraints And Medieval Instruments Of Torture And Execution
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 192 pages
  • Publisher: Lyons Press; 1st edition (November 2002)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1585746223
  • ISBN-13: 978-1585746224
  • Product Dimensions: 8.4 x 14.3 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.9 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 2.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (10 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,210,252 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From the Back Cover

Throughout history, cultures around the world have found justice for the most extreme crimes by condemning the guilty to death. Retribution has been sought by many methods, from beheading, garroting, entombment, and burning to modern means such as electrocution and lethal injection. For the infliction of torturous pain, even more ingenious devices have been employed. While torture has usually been carried out behind closed doors, it is only recently that executions have ceased to be a popular public spectacle.
The History of Torture and Execution examines these fascinating but grisly subjects by time, region, and method. Beginning with the often crude methods of meting out justice used by early and first-millennium civilizations, and evolving from the sadistic tools of the medieval age to the modern search for humane execution methods, controversial issues are authoritatively covered. More than 180 black-and-white and color images illustrate the many and varied engines of this final punishment, and the inclusion of stories told by the victims themselves gives chilling insight into the horrors faced by prisoners condemned to die for their crimes.

About the Author

JEAN KELLAWAY was born in Yorkshire, the youngest of six children. She studied social psychology at university then achieved her ambition of becoming a journalist, first on a local paper and then for a national agency, before beginning a career as a writer. Apart from studies of social history, she has written several novels centering on Britain’s criminal justice system. --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.

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Customer Reviews

We all know this is not a pretty subject and we do not need to be reminded.
Von Satan
These thoughts might be both dark and negative, but then again, isn't that sometimes the exact kind of thoughts needed for change to occur?
Stefan Isaksson
Not a complete waste of time, but I am certain there are more comprehensive texts available.
Zen Goddess

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

21 of 24 people found the following review helpful By Lance Link on May 11, 2001
Format: Hardcover
One of the best in-print works on the history of torture and basic human nastiness. The focus with this book has been on the visual, and there is at least one picture on every page. The authors are a little short on the how-to info, but anybody with the time and the inclination can figure out the details pretty easily.
I also found it interesting that the authors spend the last 52 pages of this work---over a quarter of its 192 pages---focused on the dilemas of torture and execution in modern society. While entirely worthy of philosophical discussion, contemporary cruelty pales in comparison to that of previous societies, and as such is less interesting.
Visually, the only book currently available that can compete is Michael Kerrigan's The Instruments of Torture. Since Kerrigan's book is also stronger on the verbal side of things, I'd recommend that as a starting point for those with an interest in the subject. Which isn't to say you shouldn't get this book (4 stars, baby), just that there is a better work out there that you should get first.
For those in search of more detailed verbal accounts of torture techniques, I highly recommend Daniel Mannix's exemplary work, The History of Torture. Or, if you can find a copy, Fuad Ramses' masterwork Ancient Weird Religious Rituals, which goes into great detail about Old World cruelties such as the Blood Feast.
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36 of 50 people found the following review helpful By Jeffrey A. Veyera VINE VOICE on January 20, 2001
Format: Hardcover
I must confess that I received and read "The History of Torture and Execution" because I failed to send in my response card in time to a book club. I have at best only a mild interest in the ingenious ways which man has developed to inflict pain and suffering on his fellow man.
Jean Kellaway chooses the time-honored Time/Life books approach to her subject---lots of big color pictures, a couple of paragraphs of execrable prose on her subject, and the requisite coda denouncing the practices she recounts with ready glee.
More disturbing to me than the numerous images of broken and burning victims were the numerous errors Kellaway makes in covering the various torture methods employed down through the ages. She describes the knout employed by Peter the Great's thugs as being a type of flogging. This is true, but the truly hideous aspect of the application of the knout was that the victim was simultaneously roasted over a fire. Thus, the wounds inflicted by the knout were exposed to flame, increasing the agony of the victim tenfold.
She relays the old canard about Marie Antoinette's responding to the Paris mob's cries for bread with "Let them eat cake"; this has been discredited far too many times to recall by professional historians not given to producing picture books on torture.
She is curiously soft on the crimes of Communists, a lot well known for their hell-spawned creativity in the art of cruelty. At one point, she actually justifies the Stalinist gulags (survival rate-10 percent) by pointing out that Stalin himself did time in a czarist camp and that this was the way he chose to industrialize Russia. Alexander Solzhenitsyn's "The Gulag Archipelago" tells a different story.
In short, this book is a complete travesty and I suspect no one will be stupid enough to purchase it outright. I intend to send my copy to Dr. Kevorkian; I'm certain the numerous depictions of sadism will adorn his cell marvelously.
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8 of 11 people found the following review helpful By Von Satan on June 7, 2003
Format: Hardcover
This book is more of an overview of torture and execution than it is a history. A very good introduction/starting point to the depraved ways of mankind (man-un-kind). However, since I spent [item price] on this I don't have the luxery of refering a better title to you, just yet, sorry. But on the sunny side there are quite a few pretty pictures to look at and go "wow that's gross." If you are looking for an introduction to the worst parts of human creativity, by all means, get this (I understand the paperback has been released and there is no need for this large sum of money to be spent, thanks alot guys). And there is so much more that could have been said about some of the practices in here, I was so disapointed to see that impalement barely had one sentance written on it. I remember hearing that impalement wasn't done on sharpened stakes, instead they were screwed into the back, victim proped up, face to the sky and then the weight of his own body would pull him down (thus also puncturing everything on the way through). I wanted to see if that was true but like I said prior, one sentance. A bad aspect to any history book however, is when the author puts their own two cents in. We all know this is not a pretty subject and we do not need to be reminded. Like I said, this is a good introduction to torture and execution, but sadly, that's all it is.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Marvelous Mal on February 20, 2014
Format: Paperback
Wonderful devices these clever ancient Folks invented. People are so averse to pain and suffering now. How boring and stupid! Nothing like the prospect of sitting on the Judas Chair to wake one up. We need more of this kind of Christianity to bring some excitement back into the dull, overly compassionate world.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By WiccanWolf on February 11, 2010
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
For anyone who is interested in the dark history of our world, this is a very informative book to have in your collection. This is not just a history of torture and execution, but punishment and anything that has to do with ways to die. I have to say that as humans, this volume shows that, if anything, we are trying to perfect death and killing.
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