At the end of the eighteenth century, Jeremy Bentham devised a scheme for a prison that he called the panopticon. It soon became an obsession. For twenty years he tried to build it; in the end he failed, but the story of his attempt offers fascinating insights into both Bentham's complex character and the ideas of the period. Basing her analysis on hitherto unexamined manuscripts, Janet Semple chronicles Bentham's dealings with the politicians
as he tried to put his plans into practice. She assesses the panopticon in the context of penal philosophy and eighteenth-century punishment and discusses it as an instrument of the modern technology of subjection as revealed and analysed by Foucault. Her entertainingly written study is full of
drama: at times it is hilariously funny, at others it approaches tragedy. It illuminates a subject of immense historical importance and which is particularly relevant to modern controversies about penal policy.
`exemplary book ... It is meticulously researched, lucidly argued and commendably sane in its conclusions ... The achievement of the deeply lamented Janet Semple lies in unmasking the paradoxes of penal reform on the eve of the modern age. Her discerning scholarship will be sorely missed'
Times Literary Supplement
`old-fashioned history, carefully done, richly detailed, and finely nuanced ... Bentham's Prison is among the finer of many fine fruits to come out of the Bentham Project in recent years ... carefully crafted and well-written book'
History of Political Thought
'This fine book deepens our sense of loss at the author;s untimely death soon after the book went to press.'
Bhikhu Parekh, University of Hull, Political Studies (1994), XLII
`Janet Semple ... has done a masterful job of describing Bentham's meetings with politicians in his 20-year effort to imply his plans.'
The IARCA Journal
'This fine book deepens our sense of loss at the author's untimely death soon after the book went to press.'
Bhikhu Parekh, University of Hull, Political Studies, Vol. XLII
`the journey of discovery through the book is entirely a pleasure. The learning, the elegant prose and the humour of Janet Semple, create a new and credible portrait of the old man who still sits stuffed and hatted `perpetually enthroned in his wooden box in the cloisters of University College, London'.'