Encyclopedia of Early Modern History Online

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“Prison” in modern usage is synonymous with “justice enforcement facility” or “penal institution” (Penal system). Etymologically speaking, it evolved from the Old French prisoun, “captivity,” which in turn derived from the Latin prensio, “a taking” (from the verb prehendere, “to take”). The German Gefängnis similarly developed from the verb fangen (to catch, to take captive), and initially denoted the process of capturing and taking prisoner. From the state of captivity, “prison” and Gefängnis alike then shifted in the late Middle Ages to denote also its place…

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Henze, Martina, “Prison”, in: Encyclopedia of Early Modern History Online, Editors of the English edition: Graeme Dunphy, Andrew Gow. Original German Edition: Enzyklopädie der Neuzeit. Im Auftrag des Kulturwissenschaftlichen Instituts (Essen) und in Verbindung mit den Fachherausgebern herausgegeben von Friedrich Jaeger. Copyright © J.B. Metzlersche Verlagsbuchhandlung und Carl Ernst Poeschel Verlag GmbH 2005–2012. Consulted online on 08 June 2023 <http://dx.doi.org/10.1163/2352-0272_emho_SIM_019677>
First published online: 2015
First print edition: 20210107

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