This book explores the history of Dartmoor War Prison (1805-16). This is not the well-known Victorian convict prison, but a less familiar penal institution, conceived and built nearly half a century earlier in the midst of the long-running wars against France, and destined, not for criminals, but for French and later American prisoners of war. During a period of six and a half years, more than 20,000 captives passed through its gates. Drawing on contemporary official records from Britain, France and the USA, and a wealth of prisoners’ letters, diaries and memoirs (many of them studied here in detail for the first time), this book examines how Dartmoor War Prison was conceived and designed; how it was administered both from London and on the ground; how the fate of its prisoners intertwined with the military and diplomatic history of the period; and finally how those prisoners interacted with each other, with their captors, and with the wider community. The history of the prison on the moor is one marked by high hopes and noble intentions, but also of neglect, hardship, disease and death
‘For decades after the War of 1812, the Dartmoor Massacre – when British guards fired upon rioting American prisoners of war – caste a dark shadow over Anglo-American relations.This book not only retells the story of that incident, but also places it in a larger context of carceral history in terms of prison design and in terms of the lived experience of both the French and the Americans held in Dartmoor Prison in the early nineteenth century.’―Paul A. Gilje, University of Oklahoma, USA
‘The Napoleonic Wars brought unprecedented numbers of prisoners-of-war to Britain and posed huge problems for the authorities. In this pioneering study Neil Davie looks at one of the more radical solutions, the construction on Dartmoor of a war prison that would house 5000 men, many in cramped and insanitary conditions. The prison achieved notoriety in 1815 when rioting American prisoners were mown down, and nine killed, in what became known as the ‘Dartmoor Massacre’. But violence was never far away, and this book offers keen insights into the social dynamics of life within the prison walls.’―Alan Forrest, University of York, UK ‘As Davie demonstrates in this painstakingly researched book, Dartmoor is a fascinating observatory for any historian interested in carceral spaces, the organisation of prison societies, and prison governmentality.’―Renaud Morieux, University of Cambridge, UK ‘As Davie demonstrates in this painstakingly researched book, Dartmoor is a fascinating observatory for any historian interested in carceral spaces, the organisation of prison societies, and prison governmentality.’―Alan Forrest, University of York, UKNeil Davie is Professor of British History at Université Lumière, Lyon, France.