The New Newgate Calendar

Blogs about the history of crime, justice and punishment

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Olavi Laiho was the last Finn executed in Finland, on September 2, 1944. Laiho (English Wikipedia entry | Finnish) was conscripted to the Finnish Navy to fight in Finland’s theater of war against the Soviet Union. As a Communist himself —...
Days before tapping out of the “Continuation War”, a bid to retake lost territory from the Soviets that put Finland in the discomfiting World War II position of Third Reich ally, its military conducted the last executions in that country&...
In July 1896, as he was imprisoned at Reading Gaol, some twelve miles from Broadmoor, Oscar Wilde petitioned the Home Secretary for his discharge: For more than thirteen dreadful months now, the petitioner has been subject to the fearful system of so...

1916: Kosta Kromphold

1 September 2014
According to the Portland Oregonian, Kosta Kromphold mellowed to a phonograph in his jail cell on the eve of his execution — including “If I Had a Thousand Lives to Live.” A Russian native, the forgettable Kosta Kromphold had left h...
The Sultan, seated on a golden throne, receives the homage of the viziers and the beys, massacre of 2,000 prisoners, the rain falls in torrents. -Sultain Suleiman the Magnificent (writing of himself in the third person), diary, 31 August 1526 On this...
I went to see the RSC’s The Roaring Girl, directed by Jo Davies, recently – and was rather unimpressed by its assertion that this Jacobean play – and petty criminal heroine – was more about Victorian gender-bending than the society in which i...
(Thanks to Meaghan Good of the Charley Project for the guest post. -ed.) On August 30, 1878, Sevier (aka Severe, Savier) Lewis was hanged in Empire City, Oregon — today known as Coos Bay — for the murder of his much younger half-brother,...
August 29 is a National Day of Commemoration in El Salvador, honoring the execution on this date in 1865 of the country’s beloved ex-president Gerardo Barrios. Today, you’ll find Barrios (English Wikipedia entry | Spanish) entombed adjace...
The second of my posts from Cornwall. Sometimes it is clear that an individual cannot be held responsible for their actions, however, inexplicable that action is. This might even be the case with murder. A horrific murder took place in St Ives in 190...
On this date in 1948 at stately Akershus Fortress, a firing squad carried out the last execution in Norwegian history — that of Ragnar Skancke. Skancke (English Wikipedia entry | Norwegian) was an electrical engineer in academia, and the very f...
On this date in 1610, the priest Roger Cadwallador was hanged, drawn, and quartered in Herefordshire, where he had maintained an illicit Catholic ministry for 16 years. Having spent most of the morning in spiritual preparation (for his end) about ten...
Nuremberg bookseller Johann Philipp Palm was shot on this date in 1806 for publishing a manifesto against the French occupation. For centuries a proud Free Imperial City, Nuremberg had over the few months preceding Palm’s martyrdom been smushed...
Several new pieces ready to post would be insensitive in the light of recent incidents involving an American journalist. Instead, here is a more 'light-hearted', albeit hastily compiled, case history from the annals of crime and insanity in Victorian...
It has been a long time since I have posted on this website, but that is because I have been hard at work writing my next book. Now, I am thrilled to announce the forthcoming publication of Early American Criminals: An American Newgate Calendar, Chro...

1944: Durga Malla

25 August 2014
Seventy years ago today, the British in Delhi hanged Gurkha soldier Durga Malla for spying against them — and on behalf of the army of the Japanese-backed nationalist provisional government, the Azad Hind. World War II catalyzed India’s l...
By blogging for a public audience, historians of crime are contributing to popular representations of the ‘criminal’ past, from the many websites, dramas and ‘true crime’ books devoted to notorious cases and neighbourhoods, to the discovery o...
(Thanks to Robert Elder of Last Words of the Executed — the blog, and the book — for the guest post. Fans of this here site are highly likely to enjoy following Elder’s own pithy, almanac-style collection of last words on the scaffo...
(Thanks to Meaghan Good of the Charley Project for the guest post. -ed.) On Tuesday, the 23rd inst., Harriet, slave of JAMES H. SHEPPERD, JR., aged about 13 years, was convicted of the murder, by drowning, of a son of ALEXANDER McKENZIE, Esq., of Har...
Hay-making, from Birket Foster’s ‘Pictures of English Landscape’, 1863 (Internet Archive Book Image) On the night of 25 July 1833, the hay-ricks of three farmers in North Nibley were set on fire. Each blaze was quickly extinguished...
The first of two posts to mark my recent holiday in Cornwall…and neither of them is related to smuggling! St Ives In 1842, two boys, James Stevens, aged 12, and 16-year-old William Quick, appeared in court before J King Letherbridge, accused of...
On this date in 1879, three Russian nihilists were hanged for an attempted regicide. Revolutionary nihilism flowered in 1870s Russia; in the words of the movement’s expatriate crier Stepniak, In 1870 the whole of advanced Russia was anarchist...
Blogging carnivals, like those hosted by Sharon Howard, began to appear in the early 2000s. The carnivalesque is a suggestive way of thinking about the transformative potential of social media. By orchestrating multiple voices blogging has a levellin...
On this date in 1851, the domestic abuser John McCaffary (or McCaffrey) was publicly hanged in Kenosha, Wisconsin.* His crime — singularly ill-concealed — was a noisy row with his wife Bridgett that ended with him tipping her into a rain...
On this date in 1897,* anarchist Michele Angiolillo was garroted in Vergara prison for assassinating the Spanish Prime Minister. Angiolillo (English Wikipedia entry | Spanish) was an Italian expatriate in England who was so incensed by the procesos d...
On this date in 1738, the last victims of witch trials in the Lower Rhine were burned att the stake in Gerresheim, an ancient German city today subsumed by Düsseldorf. More eccentric than demoniacal, the sicky 14-year-old Helena Curtens reported hav...
This is a draft of the first part of a short article I’m writing on blogging the history of crime. It’s for a special issue of the online journal Law, Crime & History which will examine on-going discussions at the Our Criminal Past n...
At some point around August 476 — the exact date(s) lost to history — the deposed Eastern Roman Emperor Basiliscus was executed most cruelly with his family. But having himself played for power with ruthlessness to equal his rivals, Basil...
Waterloo Bridge, 1828 London in the first decades of the nineteenth century had literally been enlightened; gas now helped illuminate even some of the dark streets south of the river.  It was on the edge of the glow of one of the new lamps on the So...
(Thanks to Harry Brodribb Irving for the guest post, originally published in his Book of Remarkable Criminals. Some formatting has been adjusted for readability. -ed.) In the May of 1874, in the town of Montpellier, M. Boyer, a retired merchant, some...

1883: Ah Yung

16 August 2014
(Thanks to Meaghan Good of the Charley Project for the guest post. -ed.) On this day in 1883, Chinese immigrant Ah Yung, aka Ah Kee, was hanged in Missoula, Montana. As Tom D. Donovan notes in his book Hanging Around The Big Sky: The Unofficial Guide...
Three centuries ago today, Wallachian prince Constantine Brancoveanu was beheaded in Istanbul with his four sons. Brancoveanu (English Wikipedia entry | Romanian) had fallen foul of the Sublime Porte, which dominated Wallachia, by dallying with the O...
The staff of HMP Brixton, December 1973. John Aston is the furthest right. The prison service has a close association with the military – many members of staff are ex-forces.  It is a tradition which goes as far back as when Brixton opened in...
‘prison is the best school of crime which we possess’ (Jerome Caminada, 1901) I’ve been very much enjoying the 2-part …Continue reading →
On this date in 1793, Walter Clark was executed for burglary at Morpeth, with one Margaret Dunn. Clark rates a mention in the spirit of the apple not falling far from the tree: a year before Clark’s conviction and hanging, his two daughters Jan...
One hundred fifty years ago today, Barney Gibbons was executed by musketry by the Civil War Union army in St. Louis, Missouri. Gibbons was among the many soldiers in that chaotic war who in the time before identity cards and omnipresent databases des...
On this day fifty years ago, the last hangings in the UK took place. To mark this anniversary, here’s Criminal Historian’s list of key dates in the history of execution in Britain. William Calcraft, from Irregular Shed’s Flickr page 4 April...

The Caring Magistrate

12 August 2014
John Ivatt Briscoe was one of the magistrates of Surrey – the men who had commissioned – and were ultimately in charge of – the prison at Brixton.  He was a person of probity and compassion who was a regular visitor to the gaol and...
New York’s electric chair handled record traffic on this date in 1912: seven successive electrocutions. The first two men committed unrelated and isolated crimes. John Collins got drunk and started firing a pistol in his Manhattan apartment. P...
(Thanks to Meaghan Good of the Charley Project for the guest post. -ed.) On this date in 1838, a teenage slave girl named Mary was hanged in Crawford County, Missouri. She had murdered Vienna Jane Brinker, a white child two weeks short of her second...
Atop a hill called steng Cross at the Northumberland village of Elsdon stands an eerie heirloom of England’s gallows history: Winter’s Gibbet. (Or “Winter’s Stob”, to use the local parlance.) (cc) image from Flickr user...

Brixton Purgatory

9 August 2014
Brixton Purgatory published with the permission of the City of London It was Brixton that made the treadmill famous.  This particularly sadistic form of prison punishment had first been introduced at the gaol in Bury St Edmunds in 1819, but was not...
Cultural change and technological change are linked in complex ways. We are currently facing the cultural implications of the exponential growth of digital technology. I do not know how parents in 2014 can monitor their children’s online social...
On this date in 1849, the German revolutionary Friedrich Neff was shot at Freiburg. A law and philosophy student, Neff had been one of the firebrands of the Baden incarnation of Germany’s 1848 Revolutions. These stirrings for political liberali...
Letters to the editors of Victorian newspapers are often fascinating insights into the minds of our 19th century forebears. This one, from 1842, caught my attention – from the self-titled Flagellator (whose name should give you an immediate ind...
On this date in 1570, the English Catholic martyr John Felton suffered hanging, disemboweling, and quartering at St. Paul’s Churchyard in London for the Old Faith. Not to be confused with the 17th century assassin of the same name, our John Fel...
An interim post to say sorry for the lack of a new piece - and some news by way of an explanation. My new book, Bloody British History: Salisbury (published by The History Press) is out now, meaning my time is currently spent in radio interviews, boo...
On this date in 2009, China executed Li Peiying, the former chairman of a vast airport conglomerate that managed, among many others, Beijing Capital International Airport. Li was convicted on corruption charges that netted £11 million in bribes...
‘Life should mean life’ is a popular adage that you might overhear in a pub, on public transport, even in the queue at the supermarket. It is hard to judge how widely, or sincerely, held this belief is – but it is certainly one that most of us...
On August 6, 1788, “John and Robert Winter, the father and son, were executed at Morpeth, pursuant to their sentence, for breaking open the house of William Charlton, esq., of Hesleyside. As they had lived for many years in a course of the most...
Thieving in Bloody Code England was quite often a family affair. For a few scattered posts this August we will revisit an extended clan of vagabond Northumberland robbers (and sometimes worse than robbers) who in the 1780s and 1790s broke with one an...