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Back in Victorian times, being in debt and unable to pay was a serious crime, so much that there were special debtors’ prisons all around the UK to incarcerate financial criminals. These accounted for nearly half of all prisons in Britain.

Since the 14th century, until the reforms introduced by the Debtors Act of 1869, any debtor could be thrown to prison for debts as low as 40 shillings (about £278 in 2014). It’s hardly surprising then that approximately 10,000 people found themselves imprisoned each year for debt. In those days bankruptcy could be filed only by traders and merchants. So it was often the poor working class that ended up going to prison.


Marshalsea prison in the 18th century.

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© Amusing Planet, 2018.


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