On this day, 25 May 1895, libertarian socialist author Oscar Wilde was imprisoned for two years’ hard labour for “indecency”. This graphic biography of Oscar Wilde focuses on perhaps the most important phase of the Irish writer’s life: his two years behind the iron bars and stone walls of the brutal Victorian prison system. Merlin Holland, Oscar Wilde’s grandson, has praised the “quality as well as the sensitivity” of The Season of Sorrow.

With two plays running in London’s West End and at the height of his success, Wilde was convicted of gross … More

OTD in 1840, the transportation of British convicts to the New South Wales colony is abolished. The Fatal Shore: The Epic of Australia’s Founding by Robert Hughes is a history of the birth of Australia out of the suffering and brutality of Britain’s convict transportation system. It also addresses the historical, political and sociological reasons that led to British settlement.

The British Government began transporting convicts overseas to American colonies in the early 17th century. When transportation ended with the … More

A powerful, groundbreaking history of the Occupied Territories from one of Israel’s most influential historians. From the author of the bestselling study of the 1948 War of Independence comes an incisive look at the Occupied Territories, picking up the story where The Ethnic Cleansing of Palestine left off. In this comprehensive exploration of one of the world’s most prolonged & tragic conflicts, Pappe uses recently declassified archival material to analyse the motivations & strategies of the generals & politicians – & the decision-making process itself – that laid the foundation of the occupation.

From a survey of the legal and bureaucratic infrastructures that were put in place to control the population of over … More

Born OTD in 1954, Robert Gerard Sands. This is the best-selling biography of the IRA resistance fighter and hunger-striker, Bobby Sands. In this updated, new edition, Denis O’Hearn draws from a wealth of interviews with friends, comrades, fellow prisoners and prison wardens, to provide a faithful and shocking insight into life in Northern Ireland’s H-Block prisons, an exploration of the motivations and thoughts of the Republican strikers and the story of one of the world’s most radical, inspirational figures.

Following his journey from its very beginnings – an ordinary boy from a working-class background in Belfast to a highly … More

Society has never known what to do with its rebellious women. Those who defied expectations about feminine behaviour have long been considered dangerous and unnatural, and ever since the Victorian era they have been removed from public view, locked up and often forgotten about. Many of these women ended up at HMP Holloway, the self-proclaimed ‘terror to evil-doers’ which, until its closure in 2016, was western Europe’s largest women’s prison.

First built in 1852 as a House of Correction, Holloway’s women have come from all corners of the UK – … More

Born OTD 1828, Leo Tolstoy. This powerful novel begins with a courtroom drama (the finest in Russian literature), all the more stunning for being based on a real-life event. Dmitri Nekhlyudov, called to jury service, is astonished to see in the dock, charged with murder, a young woman whom he once seduced, propelling her into prostitution

She is found guilty on a technicality, and he determines to overturn the verdict. This pitches him into a hellish … More

Born in Birmingham in 1958, Zephaniah grew up in Jamaica and in Handsworth, where he was sent to an approved school for uncontrollable, rebellious and ‘a born failure’, ending up in jail for burglary. After prison, he turned from crime to music and poetry: ‘I started writing poetry because I didn’t like poetry.’

As a reggae DJ in Handsworth, he refused to mimic other toasters with their chants about Jamaican life, instead turning … More

The three lives in this creative nonfiction account are united by the presence of actual harm—sometimes horrific violence….Together they explore the questions: People can do unimaginable things to one another—and then what? What do we as a society do? What might redemption look like?

Imarisha doesn’t flinch as she guides us through the difficulties and contradictions, eschewing theory for a much messier reality. The … More

What a fine thing capital punishment is! Dead men never repent; dead men never bring awkward stories to light. The prospect of the gallows, too, makes them hardy & bold. Ah, it’s a fine thing for the trade! Five of them strung up in a row, & none left to play booty or turn white-livered!

Died #OTD 1870, Charles Dickens. Starved and mistreated, empty bowl in hand, the young hero musters the courage to approach … More