[PW] paying one's debt to societyh

cowan at ccil.org cowan at ccil.org
Mon Apr 27 08:52:21 PDT 2015

T.F. Mills scripsit:

> The Code of Ur-Nammu, dating from about 2100 BCE and thus predating the
> Code of Hammurabi by 300 years, is the oldest surviving law code and
> provides for imprisonment for some crimes.

I interpret Ur-Nammu 3 as meaning that a kidnapper is to be imprisoned
*until* he pays 15 sheqels of silver.  That's consistent with the
world-old function of imprisonment as coercion and/or detention.
Imprisonment as punishment is too expensive for pre-modern societies,
whose punishments are capital, corporal, or financial.

Imprisonment as punishment doesn't have a definite birthdate, but
it's somewhere between the early 16C and the early 19C, at least in
England, so somewhere in the early modern or modern period.  Similarly,
the abolition of slavery in England is likewise a process, for which
Somersett's Case in 1772 is a milestone but neither the beginning
nor the end.

John Cowan          http://www.ccil.org/~cowan        cowan at ccil.org
"Repeat this until 'update-mounts -v' shows no updates.
You may well have to log in to particular machines, hunt down
people who still have processes running, and kill them."

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