19th Century Punishment

Discussion in 'Historical Fiction' started by Timben, Dec 12, 2016.

  1. Timben

    Timben Member

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    My main character in my current story that I am writing, has been sentenced to twenty lashes by a cruel British military commander. What crime could he have committed that would cause the Major to give such heartless punishment? The timeline is 1890 and is set in Kenya, Africa. Any suggestions?
     
    Last edited: Dec 12, 2016
  2. Susan Boulton

    Susan Boulton The storyteller

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  3. Theophania Elliott

    Theophania Elliott Well-Known Member

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    I think you may have a problem. I haven't had time to do thorough research, but the Cardwell Reforms abolished flogging of members of the British armed forces (including in the field on active service, but I think excluding in prisons, and excluding boys) in 1880. Flogging in peacetime had been banned in 1868.

    The act of parliament is, I think, the Army Discipline and Regulation Act 1879.

    Can you alter the timeline to the 1870s (if your soldiers are on active service)? Does he really need to be flogged? Or, alternatively, is your major an insane bully who thinks he's above the law? And if so, why and how does he think he's going to get away with it?

    Flogging was replaced by "Field Punishment No. 1" - there's an article here.
     
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  4. Alexa

    Alexa traveller space dreamer

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    As this is fiction anyway, my sugestion is to go for jealousy or punishement. He could get involved with Major's wife or daughter.
     
  5. Timben

    Timben Member

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    Thank you for the much needed input. You see, the Major is after a lost fortune and he believes that the Maasi knows the whereabouts. The major had kidnapped the chief's son as retaliation because the chief would not disclose the location. The American came up on the prisoner, chained up, and freed him. The Major punishes him for it. I am not trying to be too explicit when it comes to violence. I am trying to keep it as a "PG" type setting. Like the "Indiana Jones" type-films.
     
  6. Theophania Elliott

    Theophania Elliott Well-Known Member

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    If you're saying "sentenced", that implies an official context. Which requires an explanation of not only the punishment itself, but also the reason why this British army officer has the authority to punish an American. Is the American in the British Army? If not, then your major doesn't "sentence" your American to anything - he doesn't have that authority.

    But, once you're outside the legal system (whether civilian or military), anything goes. If this major is already off on a frolic of his own, then he can commit grievous bodily harm in whatever manner he pleases. (And since the Offences Against the Person Act is 1861, you can have "grievous bodily harm" :) ).
     
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  7. TheDustyZebra

    TheDustyZebra Dogged Staff Member

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    I'm confused. It sounds like the twenty lashes are punishment of the American for freeing the prisoner? But you said you were looking for a likely crime to justify the punishment.

    And I agree that you have a jurisdiction problem there.
     
  8. Timben

    Timben Member

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    Let me explain this one more time, I am trying to find a criminal act that would justify the American being punished. I thought of bullwhipping the American because he freed a prisoner. I want my villain to be cruel and hateful toward the American. Now I hope you guys can understand what I am saying.
     
  9. Theophania Elliott

    Theophania Elliott Well-Known Member

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    In order for your major to punish the American for a "criminal act", the major must have some kind of real authority over the American. Then, the punishment must be a legal one. It all starts getting a bit convoluted and difficult to figure out - which is often a signal to pull back and rethink. One of the most irritating things for a reader is when a character only does something because the author needs him to do it for the plot. It works much better if the action is something the character would do anyway.

    It sounds like your major isn't acting in an official capacity - going around kidnapping people and so forth. So in order to express his frustration and displeasure with your American, you may be best off just having your major take the time-honoured route of getting a couple of his henchmen (he's British, and everyone knows all British people are evil - just ask Hollywood; we have henching lessons in primary school when other countries are teaching things like arts and crafts) and taking the American behind the tents and beating the sh*t out of him.

    Beating the sh*t out of someone has the advantage of being a) universal, b) unofficial, c) traditional, d) not requiring any specialist equipment or skills, and e) infinitely variable for narrative purposes.

    Plus, how you arrange the participants can tell you a lot about them. Is your heroic American being held down by evil henchBrits? Who is doing the actual hitting? The major or more henchmen? Does the major take any part in proceedings, except to supervise - superciliously? Or does he get his hands dirty? Does he take any risks, or has he made sure that the heroic American is being restrained by the henchmen? How do the henchmen react? Are they silent, stone-faced minions, or are they enthusiastic?

    Your American can be properly heroic by trying to fight off the cowardly Brits, but still be left for dead by the laughing major and his henchmen. Naturally, there will be enough henchmen to ensure that your American is going to get thoroughly beaten up no matter how bravely and well he fights back. And, of course, your American can be even more brave etc, by dragging himself off and sewing up his own wounds without anaesthetic.

    I wouldn't go with bullwhipping, for the following reasons:
    1. You need a bullwhip. Why would your major have one to hand?
    2. Bullwhips are specialist equipment. Not only do you have to know how to crack them but they're a distance weapon, and you have to know how to aim properly. Bullwhipping someone takes practice: believe me, I've tried.
    3. Bullwhips aren't really a British thing. They're more American, so why would your British major have one - or know how to use it if he had it? You would have to set this up in the story beforehand (and even if he is a bullwhip aficionado, why has he brought one on campaign with him?).
    4. Because it's a distance weapon, you need to make sure your victim doesn't run away. So that means you have to tie him up, then stand back and bullwhip him. Probably you need henchmen for this, because wrestling with your victim on your own is not necessarily a great option: he might win (especially if he's a heroic American).
    5. And because of that, unless you're really into bullwhipping people, it's just not as emotionally satisfying as punching someone in the face. There's something about that physical contact between fist and physiognomy that really, really, hits the spot (!) when you are expressing your deep disapproval of someone's life choices in the immediate past, and how they have negatively intersected with your plans for the future.
    6. It's also complicated. If you need to get the henchmen involved anyway, just take the American behind the tents and beat the sh*t out of him. It's quick (or slow, depending on taste), it does the job, and you can either watch or participate according to taste.
     
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  10. Timben

    Timben Member

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    Okay, first off, I am not trying to offend any culture what so ever. I am very sorry if I offended you by stating that all Brits were bad guys. So forget the post. Apparently no matter what I am saying, everyone is going to reject what I am attempting to write. Forget it. I regret that I even posted anything.
     
  11. TheDustyZebra

    TheDustyZebra Dogged Staff Member

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    No need to get your feathers ruffled -- nobody is saying that you suggested anything of the sort. I believe it's safe to say that Theophania is being facetious.

    That said, she is also offering you plenty of useful advice on your problem. It's entirely up to you whether you give it any credence or not.
     
  12. Ladymage

    Ladymage Active Member

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    What is in interesting is that by the 18th century, britain was one of the only armies that regularly flogged. I know more about 18th century punishment than 19th century punishment though. I will see if I come across some interesting information.

    Here's an interesting bit of information that I ran across regarding revolutionary war era punishment: an account of a soldier who was dressed as a woman and then whipped as punishment for being absent on the day of battle. Military leaders could be quite creative in their punishments!
     
  13. hitmouse

    hitmouse Well-Known Member

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    You dont need a bullwhip. A sjambok is the local equivalent, though that was used to control the natives rather than the colonials.
    Agree that if you are being historically accurate then this would have to be an unofficial punishment behind the blockhouse. If you are not that bothered about strict legal accuracy and just want a period drama then write what you want, but expect to get pulled apart by the pedants who read historic fiction.
     
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