The 19th Century Prison

a place of hard labour, hard board, hard fare… and prison education!?!

But it was. Few people know that from the emergence of the modern prison regime at the turn of the nineteenth century, education played an important role. So the task of this research project is to explain why this happened, how education was delivered to prisoners, and what the outcomes were.

Over the next few years, as a result of generous assistance from the AHRC, I will be delving into surviving prison archives to bring as yet undiscovered or overlooked files on prison education programmes to light, putting prison reformers under the spotlight, and attempting to recover the voice of the 19th century prisoner.

I also hope to demonstrate how an historical study of prison education is relevant to current policymakers and practitioners. Today we continue to struggle with the interpretation of statistics on prisoner literacy and debate the content of the curriculum that should be offered to offenders. The same debates were going on in the nineteenth century. And it is always useful to know how an important social policy first came about.

This website is largely a record of my adventures in research – interesting discoveries in archives or key questions that pop up during my travels will appear in the blog. But I will also post information about publications from the project and events associated with the project. And you can find out more details about the project here.

Thanks for reading! And I welcome your comments or feedback.

Back to the Future?

Great Expectations for Prison Education

Conference on Defining Prison Education, June 2016

What is ‘prison education’?

‘Educating Criminals’ Site Goes Live

The Prison and Literacy in 19th Century England

Contact the Research Team