Prisons in the early 1700s stood apart from their seventeenth-century predecessors, and the reformed penal institutions of the later eighteenth, and early nineteenth centuries. Through an examination of the intersection of governance and prisons in the City of London, this paper seeks to make contributions to scholarship on both governance and prisons by arguing that City of London prisons transformed from a seemingly independently run system to one in which City government played a central role. This complicates the discourse on governance and administrative development and challenges dogmatic arguments depicting early-eighteenth century prisons as unregulated and corrupt institutions.
The image of independent prisons was important in the very early part of the eighteenth century because such an image preserved the notion that City money was not spent on imprisonment, or precious governing time. But in reality, this was only an image projected and protected by the City. This paper will analyse the relationship between prison keepers and the City of London governing bodies in order to ask how governance of prisons in the City of London transformed in 55 years without reforms.