French Philosopher Michel Foucault startshis book “Discipline and Punish: The Birth
of the Prison,
” with a chapter about an unfortunate Frenchman named Robert-François
Damiens had tried and failed to assassinate King Louis XV,
and for it he was severely punished.
He was burned with molten wax and lead,
and had boiling oil poured into his open wounds.
He was then “ quartered ” by horses pulling
at his limbs and then his torso was burned
at the stake.
Some of the crowd cheered, but one commentator wrote,
“ I was several times obliged to turn
away my face and to stop my ears
as I heard his piercing shrieks, half of his body having
been torn from him.”
Things slowly changed regarding the harshness of punishments,
but today we ’ ll look back
in this episode of the Infographics Show, The Worst Punishments in
the History of Mankind.
We should explain that this list is in no particular order
that all these punishments metered out are barbaric to the nth degree.
It would be hard to say which is the worst,
as they are all incredibly horrific.
We ’ ll let you decide which punishment you think is the most heinous.
We will also add that some of you might believe
that prolonged agony, such as solitary confinement
for 20 years, might actually be worse
than excruciating pain that lasts a few seconds
or minutes before death.
But we’ll focus more on barbaric acts today.
The RackWe’ll start with one punishment you have
all probably heard of.
The rack was a fairly simple device,
consisting of a rectangular frame and a series of levers, pullies,
There are different versions of the rack dating from antiquity to Middle Ages Europe.
The idea was to stretch the prisoner by the joints
until the muscles were torn and the
Eventually all the joints would be dislocated. Hanged,
drawn and quartered This
is close to what happened to Damiens,
but was better known as a very gruesome form
of execution in Middle Ages England when someone
had committed high treason (aka treason againstthe state).
The prisoner would be hanged until almostdead.
Then he would be taken down and disemboweled while still alive,
and also have his manhood
cut from his body.
He would then be chopped into pieces,
and often his head was chopped off and hung some
place where the public could see it.
This punishment was abolished in England in1870.
Judas ChairAlso known as Danni’s Chair or Judas Cradle,
it ’ s not known exactly when this was used,
but there are sketches of it in existence
and it also is on display in some museums.
This gruesome device was a chair
with a sharp pointed pyramid shape on the seat of the chair.
Websites writing about medieval history tell
us people would be sat atop this spike and
lowered by ropes, which was extremely painful as it entered the orifice.
But sometimes they would be dragged down on it
with the use of weights while application
of oil would make things worse.
They would die slowly as they were further lowered,
or perhaps die even more slowly from infection.
This could take hours or days, according to two sources we found.
Some sources say it was used during the Spanish Inquisition,
but other sources refute that.
BoilingAgain, we turn to England and this time to
It ’ s said the often-irascible King Henry
VIII made this a form of capital punishment,
but it seems to also have been popular
at some point in time all around Europe and Asia.
As you can guess,
the torture and usually the eventual death was a result of someone
being boiled alive in a large cauldron or kettle full
of water, oil or tar.
The Catherine WheelAlso known as the Breaking Wheel, it’s thought
this simple method
of bodily destruction was used mainly in the 18th and 19th centuries
in Europe and parts of Asia.
The French writer Voltaire writes about the punishment
in a book published in the 18th
Prisoners were tied and splayed on a largewooden wheel.
The executioner would then take a heavy object,
sometimes an iron cudgel, and break the person
on the wheel until the body was completelyalmost in pieces. Sometimes,
however, it would take a few days
for the victims to die from their injuries.
The Head CrusherThis should be self-explanatory.
Imagine a metal dish strapped to your skull,
and a metal plate under your chin.
You can’t move as it is all secured.
The dish can be lowered using a large screw that can be turned.
As it lowers, it breaks the bones
in your head and eventually crushes the skull.
We can ’ t find too many reliable sources telling us when this was used,
but again it ’ s
thought it was a contraption of the MiddleAges.
History.co.uk tells us it was a real thing,
and it appears in a book called “ The Big
Book of Pain: Torture & Punishment throughHistory.”
FlayingIf you’ve seen Game of Thrones you’ll
be familiar with this punishment.
The torture comprises of cutting off all of a person ’ s skin,
although it ’ s said in
China sometimes it was just the facial skin.
Sometimes the person may have been burned first
to make the cutting easier, or just
perhaps to add more nastiness.
It was around as late
as the 18th century and Michel Foucault discusses it in gory detail
in the book we mentioned, Discipline and Punish.
It ’ s said the English did it to thieves
in the 13th century, but such punishment happened
all over the world throughout the ages.
that the Chinese Emperor Hongwu ordered the flaying of 5,000 women in 1357,
although a book called “ Skin and Bones ” puts the date at 1396.
Death by a Thousand Cuts Sticking
with China and a similar period,
comes this brutal torture.
Also known as Lingchi,
a book called “ Death by a Thousand Cuts ” says it was a common
form of punishment in China in the 14th century,
but was around in the country for many centuries.
The prisoner ’ s entire body would be sliced,
but it would take a long time to die, as you
would expect from small slices.
But nothing was spared
from the knife and eventually this would kill the unfortunate
while this form
of punishment became infamous outside of China, some historians
tell us that it wasn ’ t as prolonged
as some people originally said, and that some of those
cuts actually meant dismemberment – makingdeath arrive faster.
SawingLooking at sketches of this from the 15th century,
it is in some ways the most barbaric,
as it ’ s so basic.
A person is hanged upside down from some gallows
with their legs forming a V-shape.
Two men would then take a large saw
and cut the man in half from his groin area.
He would apparently live through much of this.
According to one source we can find,
“ This was only infrequently used in medieval Europe
and in China where sawing horizontally through the middle was an alternative. ”
Looking around the web,
sawing took all kinds of forms all over the world during many centuries.
In any case, people were sawed apart,
but the method may have taken many forms.
RatsYou might be thinking right now: what on Earth
was wrong with people in the past that enacted or even endorsed such behavior?
Because humans understand pain so well, werewe not blessed with a priori (built-in) morality?
If you haven ’ t already thought that,
perhaps you will in a second as death by rats really
takes the biscuit.
It was apparently used in Medieval Europeand China.
Some sources tell us that starved rats are poured
into a box with a naked prisoner, and
they slowly eat the person.
Other sources say the belly
of the person is first partially opened so the rats can
get at the insides.
It’s written about in a 1931 book called“Merrily I Go to Hell: Reminiscences of
a Bishop’s Daughter.”
Another book called “ The Dictionary of Torture ” tells us
that this happened in Germany.
Yet another book tells us
that in China the rat would be trapped on a victim ’ s stomach
under a metal pot.
The pot would be heated
until the rat had no other choice than to try and gnaw its way
through the person’s body.
We can ’ t say what the outcome of this would be,
and perhaps it ’ s not so plausible that
a rat could eat its way through a body.
Some of the sources that say that was
the case don ’ t offer evidence of it happening
there’s a short history of some humanbarbarity.
Let’s be glad we have evolved somewhat sincethose times.
Can you think of a heinous punishment that we didn ’ t mention here?
Let us know in the comments! Also,
be sure to check
out our other video called Worst Prison Experiments Conducted
Thanks for watching, and,
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as always, don ’ t forget to like, share, and subscribe.
See you next time!