Worst Punishments In The History of Mankind


French Philosopher Michel Foucault starts
his book “Discipline and Punish: The Birth of the Prison,” with a chapter about an
unfortunate Frenchman named Robert-François Damiens. Damiens had tried and failed to assassinate
King Louis XV, and for it he was severely punished. He was burned with molten wax and lead, and
had boiling oil poured into his open wounds. He was then “quartered” by horses pulling
at his limbs and then his torso was burned at the stake. Some of the crowd cheered, but one commentator
wrote, “I was several times obliged to turn away my face and to stop my ears as I heard
his piercing shrieks, half of his body having been torn from him.” Things slowly changed regarding the harshness
of punishments, but today we’ll look back at the brutal past, in this episode of the
Infographics Show, The Worst Punishments in the History of Mankind. We should explain that this list is in no
particular order of nastiness, just because you’ll see that all these punishments metered
out are barbaric to the nth degree. It would be hard to say which is the worst,
as they are all incredibly horrific. We’ll let you decide which punishment you
think is the most heinous. We will also add that some of you might believe
that prolonged agony, such as solitary confinement for 20 years, might actually be worse than
excruciating pain that lasts a few seconds or minutes before death. But we’ll focus more on barbaric acts today. The Rack
We’ll start with one punishment you have all probably heard of. The rack was a fairly simple device, consisting
of a rectangular frame and a series of levers, pullies, and ropes. There are different versions of the rack dating
from antiquity to Middle Ages Europe. The idea was to stretch the prisoner by the
joints until the muscles were torn and the joints popped. Eventually all the joints would be dislocated. Hanged, drawn and quartered
This is close to what happened to Damiens, but was better known as a very gruesome form
of execution in Middle Ages England when someone had committed high treason (aka treason against
the state). The prisoner would be hanged until almost
dead. Then he would be taken down and disemboweled
while still alive, and also have his manhood cut from his body. He would then be chopped into pieces, and
often his head was chopped off and hung some place where the public could see it. This punishment was abolished in England in
1870. Judas Chair
Also known as Danni’s Chair or Judas Cradle, it’s not known exactly when this was used,
but there are sketches of it in existence and it also is on display in some museums. This gruesome device was a chair with a sharp
pointed pyramid shape on the seat of the chair. Websites writing about medieval history tell
us people would be sat atop this spike and lowered by ropes, which was extremely painful
as it entered the orifice. But sometimes they would be dragged down on
it with the use of weights while application of oil would make things worse. They would die slowly as they were further
lowered, or perhaps die even more slowly from infection. This could take hours or days, according to
two sources we found. Some sources say it was used during the Spanish
Inquisition, but other sources refute that. Boiling
Again, we turn to England and this time to the 1500s. It’s said the often-irascible King Henry
VIII made this a form of capital punishment, but it seems to also have been popular at
some point in time all around Europe and Asia. As you can guess, the torture and usually
the eventual death was a result of someone being boiled alive in a large cauldron or
kettle full of water, oil or tar. The Catherine Wheel
Also known as the Breaking Wheel, it’s thought this simple method of bodily destruction was
used mainly in the 18th and 19th centuries in Europe and parts of Asia. The French writer Voltaire writes about the
punishment in a book published in the 18th century. Prisoners were tied and splayed on a large
wooden wheel. The executioner would then take a heavy object,
sometimes an iron cudgel, and break the person on the wheel until the body was completely
almost in pieces. Sometimes, however, it would take a few days
for the victims to die from their injuries. The Head Crusher
This should be self-explanatory. Imagine a metal dish strapped to your skull,
and a metal plate under your chin. You can’t move as it is all secured. The dish can be lowered using a large screw
that can be turned. As it lowers, it breaks the bones in your
head and eventually crushes the skull. We can’t find too many reliable sources
telling us when this was used, but again it’s thought it was a contraption of the Middle
Ages. History.co.uk tells us it was a real thing,
and it appears in a book called “The Big Book of Pain: Torture & Punishment through
History.” Flaying
If you’ve seen Game of Thrones you’ll be familiar with this punishment. The torture comprises of cutting off all of
a person’s skin, although it’s said in China sometimes it was just the facial skin. Sometimes the person may have been burned
first to make the cutting easier, or just perhaps to add more nastiness. It was around as late as the 18th century
and Michel Foucault discusses it in gory detail in the book we mentioned, Discipline and Punish. It’s said the English did it to thieves
in the 13th century, but such punishment happened all over the world throughout the ages. It’s said that the Chinese Emperor Hongwu
ordered the flaying of 5,000 women in 1357, although a book called “Skin and Bones”
puts the date at 1396. Death by a Thousand Cuts
Sticking with China and a similar period, comes this brutal torture. Also known as Lingchi, a book called “Death
by a Thousand Cuts” says it was a common form of punishment in China in the 14th century,
but was around in the country for many centuries. The prisoner’s entire body would be sliced,
but it would take a long time to die, as you would expect from small slices. But nothing was spared from the knife and
eventually this would kill the unfortunate victim. However, while this form of punishment became
infamous outside of China, some historians tell us that it wasn’t as prolonged as some
people originally said, and that some of those cuts actually meant dismemberment – making
death arrive faster. Sawing
Looking at sketches of this from the 15th century, it is in some ways the most barbaric,
as it’s so basic. A person is hanged upside down from some gallows
with their legs forming a V-shape. Two men would then take a large saw and cut
the man in half from his groin area. He would apparently live through much of this. According to one source we can find, “This
was only infrequently used in medieval Europe and in China where sawing horizontally through
the middle was an alternative.” Looking around the web, sawing took all kinds
of forms all over the world during many centuries. In any case, people were sawed apart, but
the method may have taken many forms. Rats
You might be thinking right now: what on Earth was wrong with people in the past that enacted
or even endorsed such behavior? Because humans understand pain so well, were
we not blessed with a priori (built-in) morality? If you haven’t already thought that, perhaps
you will in a second as death by rats really takes the biscuit. It was apparently used in Medieval Europe
and China. Some sources tell us that starved rats are
poured into a box with a naked prisoner, and they slowly eat the person. Other sources say the belly of the person
is first partially opened so the rats can get at the insides. It’s written about in a 1931 book called
“Merrily I Go to Hell: Reminiscences of a Bishop’s Daughter.” Another book called “The Dictionary of Torture”
tells us that this happened in Germany. Yet another book tells us that in China the
rat would be trapped on a victim’s stomach under a metal pot. The pot would be heated until the rat had
no other choice than to try and gnaw its way through the person’s body. We can’t say what the outcome of this would
be, and perhaps it’s not so plausible that a rat could eat its way through a body. Some of the sources that say that was the
case don’t offer evidence of it happening that way. So, there’s a short history of some human
barbarity. Let’s be glad we have evolved somewhat since
those times. Can you think of a heinous punishment that
we didn’t mention here? Let us know in the comments! Also, be sure to check out our other video
called Worst Prison Experiments Conducted on Humans! Thanks for watching, and, as always, don’t
forget to like, share, and subscribe. See you next time!

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