The Power of the Prisoner Emotions, gender and agency in nineteenth-century Dutch prisons


In the international research on the history of prisons, the powerlessness of prisoners is often assumed. This project will question this assumption by considering how prisoners reacted on and influenced major changes in Dutch criminal law and prison system. This research concentrates on patterns, networks, emotional expressions and interactions of prisoners with the people around them. By examining the impact prisoners had on other people, for example their visitors, the prison board and staff, this research concentrates on the following question: How and to what extent did prisoners influence the Dutch prison system? By combining the new history from below and the history of emotions, I use a new approach within the history of the prison. Besides emotions, gender also plays an important role in this research. To examine how gender and the agency of prisoners were intertwined, I will analyze the ways in which men and women manipulated ideas of masculinity and femininity to exert influence on the prison regime both on daily life in prison and legislation. The changes in the nineteenth century prison system are connected to larger developments just as social reform movements and the emergence of human rights. This research increases the understanding of the ignored role of prisoners in nineteenth-century prison reform. Plus, it complements international scholarly discussions by using a multidimensional perspective on power that pays attention to both collaboration, conflict and manipulation caused by ordinary people, and their impact on big changes in nineteenth century society.





Prof. dr. G. Blok

Verbonden aan

Open Universiteit, Faculteit Cultuurwetenschappen, Cultuurwetenschappen


I.F. van der Zande MA


01/09/2018 tot 31/08/2023