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The Millbank Penitentiary, the Tate Britain, and the Panopticon
|| 6/26/2008 || 4:20 pm || Comments Off on The Millbank Penitentiary, the Tate Britain, and the Panopticon || ||

Detail of Smiths New Map of London (1860)
Courtesy of the Library of Congress Geography & Mapping Division


The other night I was browsing the antique maps on the in American Memory Collection map stumbled upon Smith’s New Map of London (1860). As I was looking at 19th century London, I came across the geometrically shaped building that look surprisingly like some of the mashed-up buildings in my maps (see map detail above).

The building was known as the Millbank Penitentiary and was designed by William Williams in 1812 in accordance with the utilitarian principles laid down by Jeremy Bentham‘s Panopticon prison design. This radial design would allow the guards to monitor all the prisoners at all times, without any prisoner being aware of whether he/she was being monitored or not. Akin to today’s closed circuit television cameras, the Panopticon design is still used today in many prisons around the world.

Peter McRorie Higgins describes the Millbank Penitentiary extensively in The Scurvy Scandal at Millbank Penitentiary: A Reassessment:

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