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Tales from the German Underworld: Crime and Punishment in Nineteenth Century

Evans, Richard J.

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ISBN 10: 0300072244 / ISBN 13: 9780300072242
Published by Yale Univ Pr, New Haven, CT, 1998
Used Condition: Fine Hardcover
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Original black boards in fine condition both externally and internally. Housed in a fine dust jacket. Introduction, Illus., notes, biblio, index, 278p. Bookseller Inventory # 002704

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Bibliographic Details

Title: Tales from the German Underworld: Crime and ...

Publisher: Yale Univ Pr, New Haven, CT

Publication Date: 1998

Binding: Hardcover

Book Condition:Fine

Dust Jacket Condition: Fine

Edition: 1st Edition

About this title


Through the means of four narratives from the 19th-century German underworld, this book explores an array of questions about criminality, punishment and social exclusion in modern German history. Drawing on hitherto unexplored legal documents and police files, Richard J. Evans recounts the adventures of an art teacher imprisoned for forging bank notes, then transported to Siberia with a gang of violent Prussian felons in 1802; the sufferings of a drunken female vagrant whipped repeatedly by the authorities in bremen in the 1820s and 30s for the crime of persistently returning to the city after being expelled; the personal and political deceptions of a con man arrested in the 1860s for not paying his hotel bill; and the career of a young woman who drifts into prostitution after bearing an illegitimate child and discovers the underworld to be much less cruel and immoral than "respectable" society from which she was rejected. Each of these narratives sheds light on the qualities of German penal policy in the 19th century, when a regime of public and often symbolic physical punishment was transformed into one of silent, regimented incarceration. Evans investigates the complexity of the relations between deviance and control, the ambiguities of criminality in modern German history, and the ways literary models influenced perceptions of - and behaviour in - the criminal world.


Richard Evans states in his introduction that "this book presents four distinct and varied narratives of crime and punishment in nineteenth-century Germany." Each story tracks the life of a deviant criminal: a forger on his way to a Siberian prison camp in 1802; a drunken vagrant in the 1830s who spent years suffering corporal punishment in a prison in Bremen; a confidence trickster who earned his living through fraud and deceit in the 1860s; and lastly a young women who fell into a life of prostitution at the end of the century. Evans chooses these figures to represent "the bourgeois discourse of the underworld" in Germany and Europe during the 19th century and to trace the evolution of the penal policy from public punishment to incarceration. Evans persuasively argues that the change in attitude toward crime and punishment in Germany during this period is indicative of the changes throughout Europe--public punishment and mutilation were considered archaic institutions; punishment needed to be more effective. The solution was the use of isolation and hard labor as an alternative to the rough and ready public whippings and humiliations. Crimes that society once turned a blind eye to, such as prostitution and fraud, suddenly became intolerable to the bourgeois. This led to increased professionalism in the police force who in turn used the threat of incarceration and corporal punishment to control criminality amongst the populace.

The use of thematic history is often overlooked by some historians who sometimes get lost in seas of facts and statistics, yet the relationship between deviance and control is the centerpiece of Tales from the German Underworld. Evans's lucid and gripping narrative--dealing with a complex, and sometimes ambiguous subject matter--is well thought out historical investigation at its best.

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General stock in many fields; almost 5,000 volumes. Service to the antiquarian book market since 1979. Careful packaging a standard with us. Formerly, The Mt. Sterling Rebel, Mt. Sterling, Kentucky, now relocated to Santa Fe, New Mexico, USA.

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