The Marshalsea was a prison on the south bank of the River Thames in
Southwark, now part of London. From at least 1329 until it closed in
1842, it housed men under court martial for crimes at sea, including
"unnatural crimes", political figures and intellectuals accused of
sedition or other inappropriate behaviour, and—most famously—London's
debtors, the length of their stay determined largely by the whim of
their creditors. Run privately for profit, as were all prisons in
England until the 19th century, the Marshalsea looked like an Oxbridge
college and functioned largely as an extortion racket. For prisoners
who could afford the fees, it came with access to a bar, shop, and
restaurant, and the crucial privilege of being allowed to leave the
prison during the day, which meant debtors could earn money to pay off
their creditors. Everyone else was crammed into one of nine small rooms
with dozens of others, possibly for decades for the most modest of
debts, which increased as unpaid prison fees accumulated. The prison
became known around the world during the 19th century through the
writings of the English novelist Charles Dickens, whose father was sent
there in 1824 for a debt of £40 and 10 shillings. Much of it was
demolished in the winter of 1849, though some of its buildings were
used into the 20th century. "It is gone now," Dickens wrote, "and the
world is none the worse without it."
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Today's selected anniversaries:
Portuguese explorer Bartolomeu Dias landed in Mossel Bay, having sailed
around the Cape of Good Hope and the southern tip of Africa.
Turkish–Portuguese War: Portugal defeated a joint fleet of Mamlûk Burji
Sultanate of Egypt, Ottoman Empire, the Zamorin of Calicut and the
Sultan of Gujarat at the Battle of Diu off the coast of Diu, India.
Shays' Rebellion, an armed uprising in central and western
Massachusetts, was crushed, an event that energized calls in the United
States for a stronger government than what was established by the
Articles of Confederation.
American rock and roll musicians Buddy Holly, Ritchie Valens, and J.P.
"The Big Bopper" Richardson were killed when their plane crashed
shortly after taking off from Mason City Municipal Airport in Iowa.
The Soviet spacecraft Luna 9 became the first space probe to land on
the Moon and transmit pictures from the lunar surface to Earth.
Wiktionary's word of the day:
1. The act of imprecating, or invoking evil upon someone; a prayer that
a curse or calamity may befall someone.
2. A curse
Wikiquote quote of the day:
The whole duty of man consists in being reasonable and just ... I am
reasonable because I know the difference between understanding and not
understanding and I am just because I have no opinion about things I
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