HANGING IN CANADA: CONCISE HISTORY OF A CONTROVERSIAL TOPIC
Frank W. Anderson.
Volume 11 Number 3.
Hanging in Canada: Concise History of a Controversial Topic should be subtitled "An Anecdotal History." By far the greater portion of the book is devoted to cataloguing the bizarre and gruesome incidents that illustrate the use of the hangman's noose in Canada's penal history. Hanging in Canada is jammed full of trivia that deals far too often with bungled hanging, inebriated hangmen, the long drop, decapitation, and gruesome crimes. The "progress" in the art and science of hanging is described against the backdrop of the society that found it a useful device to deter crime.
Certainly the methods used and the persons employed to execute criminals deserve to be a significant part of such a history. But some considerable space should have been given to the public and parliamentary debate that raged across Canada both prior to and during the efforts to abolish capital punishment. Frank Anderson generally ignores the impact of the political and religious institutions and the media that so greatly influenced the debate.
The absence of footnotes and a bibliography deprive this history of some of the authenticity it requires. Even though the book is short, the inclusion of an index would have made it easier to use.
Hanging in Canada, though it presents a fascinating and controversial topic, does not measure up to the standards of many other titles in the Frontier series, which sometimes effectively illustrates the need and usefulness of popular history. Frank Anderson has been successful with many topics, but this book is a missed opportunity.
Donald M. Santor, London Board of Education, London, ON.
1971-1979 | 1980-1985 | 1986-1990 | 1991-1995
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