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Watercolour of Buckingham House's East Library

George III amassed an extensive collection of books and manuscripts

John Howard (?1726–90)

The state of the prisons in England and Wales with an account of some foreign prisons and hospitals 1780

RCIN 1057751

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John Howard was a late eighteenth-century prison reformer who, while serving as High Sheriff of Bedford, personally inspected the state of the prisons in the country. Appalled by what he saw, he decided to travel across Britain and Europe, inspecting prison conditions in order to make recommendations for improvement.

Published in 1780, this is the second edition of his report of findings to the House of Commons. He suggested the introduction of single cells, open-air spaces for exercise and the separation of men and women. Howard’s observations were lauded by Parliament and several changes were made to the prison system in the early nineteenth century, though some of his suggestions were criticised by later reformers such as Elizabeth Fry.