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Crime, Punishment, and the Prison in Modern China, 1895-1949 Hardcover – February 15, 2002

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Editorial Reviews


Thanks to painstaking work in the archives, Dikotter is able to usher his readers into the Chinese prison. He follows individual inmates and provides many details on their daily life, social and educational backgrounds, health, and sanitary conditions... [A] useful work for specialists of the penal systems of Asia.

(Jerome Bourgon American Historical Review)

An excellent book, simultaneously meticulous and passionate. Dikötter is a scholar who has retained his passion as well as his ideological skepticism. His fundamental principle is contained in one phrase―'the prison is a failed invention of modernity.'

(Times Literary Supplement)

According to Dikotter, the development of the modern Chinese prison system reflects enormous Western influence and traditional beliefs.



Dikötter adds a whole new dimension to the history of the prison. He alerts us to the extended reach of American and European ideas on prison reform and how they fit ever so neatly with indigenous Chinese theories of reform. A fascinating study in the transfer of ideas and practices.

(David J. Rothman, Columbia University)

Modernity and tradition, political order and chaos, violence and hope-all the themes of China's reform impulse found expression in the rapidly changing prison system of the first half of the twentieth century. Dikötter's thoughtful and deeply informed study opens up this neglected subject with fascinating results.

(Andrew J. Nathan, Columbia University)

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