The Madras Presidency’s Prisons and the British Empire, 1820s–1850s

Offermann, Michael David (13 November 2015). The Madras Presidency’s Prisons and the British Empire, 1820s–1850s (Unpublished). In: 40th Annual Meeting of the American Social Science History Association. Baltimore, MD. 12.–15.11.2015.

This paper is based on the observation that projects to reform prisons in British India in the first half of the 19th century were remarkably parallel to those in Britain and other colonies of the British Empire. Therefore, it will be asked to what extent local discussions about imprisonment in India were connected to developments in the metropole, in other parts of the empire, and elsewhere in the colony and how such imperial connections influenced local practices. Recent studies on colonial India’s prisons have focused on the British possessions in north India, whereas the Madras Presidency’s penal history is as of yet mostly unstudied. The paper will look on two initiatives of prison reform undertaken by the Madras Government; firstly, an inquiry made in the 1820s to combat the high mortality in the jails, and secondly, attempts throughout the 1840s and 1850s to construct a penitentiary along the lines of penal systems in other parts of India and the British Empire. The two case studies promise insights into the body of knowledge about punishment that was accumulated in British India, its entanglement with debates in other parts of the empire, and the emergence of ‘imperial standards’ of imprisonment in the course of the 19th century.

Item Type:

Conference or Workshop Item (Speech)


06 Faculty of Humanities > Department of History and Archaeology > Institute of History > Modern and Contemporary History

UniBE Contributor:

Offermann, Michael David


900 History




Michael David Offermann

Date Deposited:

21 Mar 2016 16:21

Last Modified:

05 Dec 2022 14:52


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