Getting out of jail: suicide, escape and release in late medieval and Renaissance Bologna. Trevor Dean

Image from Flickr

This article discusses and contextualizes a unique document: the record of an investigation into a death, apparently by suicide, in the communal prison in Bologna in 1473, with an accompanying drawing of the dead body. The credibility of this death as suicide is questioned and discussed as a possible concealed homicide. It is then further contextualized in relation to the recent, revisionist historiography of conditions in medieval prisons, and it is argued that the investigative phase of criminal justice, involving torture, increasingly generated suicides and prison escapes.


Charles Mason, the ‘king of China’: British imperial adventuring in the late nineteenth century. Catherine Ladds

Yangtze Customs House. Image from Wikipedia

This article considers the life of a British would-be adventurer and clerk in the Imperial Maritime Service, Charles Mason, who became embroiled in an uprising against the Chinese government in 1891. By exploring Mason’s life, his writings and the diplomatic dialogue sparked by his actions, the article highlights the growing disjuncture between imperial fantasy and the reality of imperial administration. It considers how the actions of errant individuals could be used as a pretext to renegotiate the limits of British and Chinese power. As Mason’s actions and his literary career demonstrate, China and other imperial sites beyond the formal control of colonial authorities acted as ideal places for adventuring in the British imagination.


Whose city? Civic government and episcopal power in early modern Salisbury, c.1590–1640. Catherine Patterson

Salisbury Cathedral. Image from Wikimedia

This article examines jurisdictional disputes between the city of Salisbury and its bishops in the Elizabethan and early Stuart period, showing how debates over local control articulated broader ideas of order in the state. The civic leadership identified itself closely with the monarch in its bid for incorporation, arguing that prosperity and peace could only be achieved in this way. The bishops, in contrast, claimed that their own traditional authority over the city was the surest means of order, an argument that gained greater purchase under Charles I. Local actors could shape relations between themselves and the crown, but their success rested finally on the monarch’s willingness to trust them to maintain the royal state.