Study Questions on Evans, Tales from the German Underground, pp. 1-135



How does Evans describe this book's "genre" and what fault does he find with most histories of crime?

What topics regarding crime history have drawn the most attention from German historians?

How have M. Foucault's views influenced historians' interpretations of crime and punishment?  How does this seem to have shaped Evans' views?

Evans builds this book around the stories of four individuals--is the book just about their four lives?  Explain.

From this introduction, how did views of the criminal underworld and of punishment seem to change in the 1800s?

Evans suggests that "bourgeois" society "needed" the underworld--what does he mean by this?

Evans says the book follows three themes--the relationship of the individual to collective fate, shifting conceptions of the underworld, and the nature of narrative and narrativity.  What does he mean by this third theme?

Chapter 1

How did Ashchenbrenner explain the cause of his crimes in his own life story?  How does he depict himself, his motives, his behavior,etc?

According to Evans, was Ashchenbrenner's version of the story a complete fantasy?  Explain.

Was Ashchenbrenner unique in being transported to Siberia? 

Who did the Prussian government pick for transportation in 1801 and why?  What kinds of crimes had they committed?

What kinds of people were considered outcasts in old regime German society and why?  How was that related to crime?  How were honor and dishonor understood in this society, and how was "dishonor" related to the punishment of crime?

On what basis were men picked for Siberian transportation?

What was the aim of the Enlightened Prussian judicial reforms of the late 1700s and early 1800s?  Were they intended to protect individual liberties?  Explain.

How did Prussian officials explain the "crime wave" at the end of the 1700s?  How does Evans explain it?  And how were judicial reforms supposed to stop it?

How were problems in the prison system related to the decision to transport criminals to Siberia?

Explain Arnim's 1801 prison reform proposal and its fate.  Also, explain Goldbeck's "rival" proposal.  Did it prove effective?

So--why did the Prussian state decide to banish serious offenders?

Does Evans consider German bandit gangs to have been "Robin Hoods" or "primitive rebels"?  Does he romanticize them?  What is his point about the gangs?  What do we know about their social origins and their social worlds?

Was it easy for Prussia to find a place to which they could transport serious criminals?  Explain.  Why send them to Siberia, and what made this possible?

Why didn't transportation to Siberia become a regular (repeated) procedure?

By 1815 views about transportation were changing in Germany---how did they change, and did this bring an end to the practice?  Explain.

What do we learn from Evans' discussion of transportation to Brazil?  Who ended up benefiting from these experiences?

How did transportations to the USA differ from those to Brazil?  When and why did Hamburg stop transporting people to the US?

Why did the transport of prisoners to New South Wales fall through?

Was transportation actually considered a form of "legal punishment" in Hamburg, Mecklenburg, or Coburg?  Explain.  In what sense was it a kind of "social policy"?

In Prussia in the 1820s-1830s, what arguments were being made in favor of and against transportation, and what were the results of these debates?

What issues were driving the debates over prison reform in the same period  What were the reformers' goals, and what "reformed"  methods did they endorse?

In what sense was solitary confinement a "liberal" reform idea, and what is Evan's view of this policy?

How and why did prison policy in mid-nineteenth century Hanover differ from the rest of Germany?

Who did Hanover transport to the USA, how, and why?  Did other German states follow similar policies?  Explain.  Why do this?

What steps did the US take to prevent the "dumping" of criminals on its shores?  When did Hanover stop this practice?

Was transportation really voluntary?   Was the state the only initiator of transportation?  Explain.

What finally brought an end to transportation to the USA?

If you think about the kinds of crimes for which people were being transported, what does it tell you about German society in the early 1800s?

In the 1850s there was another debate over transportation in Prussia--what were the pro and con arguments this time, and what were the results?

How was the issue of penal colonies linked to the issues of German unification and empire?

When and why did German establish penal colonies, and why did the elements of the "public" and state officials come to favor the idea?

Why did the Reichstag oppose penal colonies in the early 1900s?

Let's get back to Ashchenbrenner----  was the 1802 trip to Siberia easy?  Explain.

One of the men to escape from Siberia was the bandit leader Exner.  How does Evans explain the difference between lower-class and elite views of Exner?

Another convict who managed to avoid Siberia was Ashchenbrenner himself.  When and why did he write his own "authentic history"?  What were his literary influences?  Again, how did he portray himself and why?

What was life like for the convicts who actually made it to Nerchinsk (in Siberia)?

What do you think Evans' main point is in this chapter?


Chapter 2

In 1845, how did the lawyer Groning describe the character and crimes of Gesche Rudolph?  Why was he writing an appeal in her behalf?

What kinds of punishments had police inflicted upon her and why?  Was corporal punishment unusual in Germany in the early 1800s?

What criticisms did liberals and democrats make of corporal punishment in the 1830s-1840s?  How did they explain the causes of crime and what were their solutions?

Evans says that honor was the glue holding together the old regime society of Germany; how then did the rise of a "class-based" society began to loosen that glue and effect thinking about crime and punishment?  Why was attacking corporal punishment a way of attacking to old regime social order?

How was corporal punishment related to the issues of honor and shame?  What led the Prussian state to issue decress and laws against corporal punishment in the early 1800s?

Did early decrees against corporal punishment bring an end to its practice?  Explain.  What does this show us about the difference in thinking between the central government and local officials?  What does it show us about elite support for the ideal of equal rights in Prussia?

Was the Prussian state consistent in its opposition to corporal punishment?  Explain.

How did both opponents and supporters of corporal punishment in the 1840s use the ideas of honor and human dignity to justify their own arguments?

How and why did the collapse of the 1848 revolution effect the debate over corporal punishment?  In Prussia in the 1850s, what arguments were made for and against this kind of punishment, and why were government officials now in favor of it?

What social class/group most strongly supported corporal punishment  in the 1850s and why?  Who was most against it and why?

What does the campaign to restore corporal punishment in the 1850s reveal about elite (junker) political and social views?

What impeded the reintroduction of corporal punishment in Prussia?  Why was the liberal middle class opposed?  What did this have to do with the issue of honor?

What position did the Justice Ministry take on this question in the 1850s and why?  Did all state officials agree that banning corporal punishment had caused crime to increase?  Explain.

What "cures" for crime were being proposed in the 1850s, and by whom?  Did these debates result in a reinstitution of corporal punishment?  Did it simply disappear?

Did German unification really end the practice of corporal punishment?  Why does Evans say that we have to look at the relationship between "private" and "public" to understand how corporal punishment changed?

What groups were excluded from the "bourgeois public sphere"?  How did this relate to the issue of corporal punishment?  For instance, were prisoners protected from such punishment?  Women?  Children?  Explain.  Under what circumstances was it "ok" to beat such people?

Evans says that corporal punishment of prisoners reflected the compromise made between liberals and reactionaries after 1848.  What does this mean?  How could liberals justify the continued beating of prisoners, and what does this have to do with the idea of honor?

As late as the early 1900s, who besides prisoners were legally subject to corporal punishment in Germany?

So, had the shift from a "feudal" to a "class" society really ended corporal punishment?  Explain.

In what ways did the German Right try to use the issue of corporal punishment in the late 1800s-early 1900s?  What arguments did they make about corporal punishment and how did they use this against the Left?  In what sense were they trying to put punishment back in the public sphere and why?

How did the opponents of corporal punishments use racist arguments to bolster their positions in the early 1900s?

How did the end of "public" corporal punishment appear to have been related to the rise of (or at least growing visibility) of sado-masochistic pornography and practices?  How did this play into the political debate?

Back to the story of Gesche Rudolph:   Was it only the police who beat her?  What finally became of her?

What are Evans' conclusions about the "success" of corporal punishment and imprisonment and the success of "reform" efforts?