Crime, punishment, and law in eighteenth-century British encyclopedias

Elisabetta Lonati


In the second half of 18th-century Europe, the notions – and the administration – of law and justice underwent dramatic and fundamental epistemological changes. Crime and punishment were gradually reconceptualised and redefined. The general aim of the present study is to provide an overview of selected contents included in 18th-century British dictionaries of arts and sciences: a survey on the words connected to crime and punishment, and the function of reference works in the dissemination of traditional vs. innovative contents. The detailed aim is at least twofold: to analyse the notions and terms of crime, punishment, corporal punishment as judicial torture, and their relationship with law and justice, and to verify the inclusion of Beccaria’s work and his ideas in encyclopedic entries after 1767.


Crime; Punishment; Law; Torture; 18th-Century Encyclopedias

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