Until approximately the eighteenth century, death was not the harshest punishment available for law enforcement in civilized countries. Torture was. People found guilty of major crimes (often minor crimes by our lights) were not executed: They were tortured to death, and torture was so cruel that death came as a relief. Condemned persons were commonly boiled, burned, roasted on spits, drawn and quartered, broken on wheels, disemboweled, slowly dismembered, or torn apart by horses. Infinitely elaborate and breathtakingly cruel tortures lasted for days, with those subjected to them begging for death, sometimes granted—as a form of leniency. Often the tortures of criminals served as public spectacles and family entertainments. (Although no fan, I regard TV as an improvement. Less gripping, it also is less painful.)
KeywordsDeath Penalty Death Sentence Harsh Punishment Hunger Striker Minor Crime
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