Andrew James John Mackenzie
an historiography
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Nauseating Executions from History

On the 9 November 2015 there was marked the 50th year anniversary since the last death penalty sentence carried out in the United Kingdom
. The last condemned to death by hanging being Gwynne Evans and Peter Allen. The most high profile case, however, was that of Ruth Ellis who, in 1955, was found guilty of murdering her husband, a day after he had punched her and causing her to miscarry. This fuelled much disquiet concerning corporal punishment and the morality of condemning a person to death, leading soon after to the abolition executions utterly.


By today’s standards, the idea of hanging is reprehensible, however, it was ever so much worse in times past. Even within recent history. Detailed below are some of the more gruesome methods of execution that persons faced upon being pronounced guilty.

Elephant crushing


Prior to the 19th century, one of the more unusual methods of execution was to train an elephant. In countries throughout the South and Southeast Asian continent, elephants were employed to crush the condemned to death, whether instantaneously or in a drawn out method of torture to prolong their death.






In the ancient Persian empire, certain prisoners would be suspended upside down and would then be sawn in two, enabling the executor to extend life long enough for the condemned to suffer the entire ordeal until a main organ is destroyed.




Cannon death


During British colonial rule, beginning in the latter half of the 18th century, dissidents and particularly notorious prisoners were punished especially cruelly, being strapped to the mouth of a cannon and fired, blowing them literally apart, the projectile crushing through.


Death by a thousand cuts


Translated from the Chinese, Lingchi, prisoners were subjected to the process of slow and meticulously considered slashes and apportioning, being cut over a process of time until they bleed to death or succumb to shock.






Reserved particularly to murderers, the process of boiling prisoners during the Early Modern period involved lowering the victim, slowly, into a cauldron full of boiling liquid.






This method, employed during the rule of the Holy Roman Empire, involved the use of four horses, a single limb from the condemned attached and the call for a charge. As the horses sped in opposing directions, each of the four limbs would be wrenched asunder. These would then be displayed as a common deterrent, warning other would-be perpetrators.




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