The history of death penalty can be traced back to the Babylon civilization as early as the 18th century BC, where death penatly was given for a set of 25 different crimes. Later in the 14th and the 7th century BC in the civilizations of Hittite and Athens, death penalty was given as a punishment for any crime. In those times death penalty was executed in the form of crucifixion, burning alive, drowning, beating to death and impalement. But in all these cases, the death penalty was different for the slaves, noble, royalty and the freemen. The most notorious death penalty recorded in BC was when Greek Philosopher Socrates was made to drink poison for dissidence and corrupting the minds of the youth. Evidence has been found that death penalty was also a major part in the history of Jews. They used several different techniques such as beheading, stoning, hanging apart from the more common crucifixion, drowning. In the 13th century, William The conqueror opposed death penalty or taking life except in war and prohibited death penalty completely, however he did allow the guilty to be mutilated for their crimes. After the reign of William the Conqueror was over, during the middle ages, the punishment of death penalty accompanied with torture as bad as 3rd degree burns and mutilation. Men were hanged, drowned and quartered and women were burnt alive for the crimes they committed
In Britain, the rate of death penalties saw a steady increase since the 1700s when it was declared that over two hundred and twenty-two crimes were considered punishable by death, which include murder, theft of a particular amount or more, cutting down a tree, and counterfeiting tax stamps.
Slowly reforms began to take place, in early 1820s about hundred crimes were condemned from death penalty and in the 1830s several capital offenses were taken off.
The abolitionist movement
This movement gave power to those against death penalty and these people started protesting against death penalty saying that there is no reason justifiable enough for taking a life. Cesare Beccaria’s essay written in 1767 “on crimes and punishment” had a strong impact on the world about the inhumane act of death penalty and strengthened the voice of those protesting against death penalty. This movement result in removal of death penalty in some countries and reduced the rate of death penalties is other countries.
As the nineteenth century began, the abolitionist movement gained momentum. Many states reduced the number of capital crimes and built state prison. By the end of nineteenth century, life imprisonment gained popularity and the rate of death penalties took a downward slope.
Although a few countries have already abolished death penalties, it is only in the twentieth century that “progressive development” started and death penalties were completely abolished in most countries around the world.
Today, death penalty is still in a state of complete abolishment leaving the exception of a few monarchial countries in the world.