Dan Snow's History Hit


The Treadmill

Before they found their way into gyms, treadmills had a much darker history. In the 19th Century, they could most commonly be found in prisons.

In contrast to their modern track record of improving health, the Victorians saw treadmills as a way to explicitly inflict pain and punishment. A tool for ‘grinding men good’ through gruelling hours of physical activity.

What were the moral rationalisations of this corporal punishment? Who was the inventor responsible for these machines? And what cautionary tales can we learn from this punishing chapter of penal history?

We answer all these questions and more in this episode of Patented with the help of Rosaline Crone, a Senior Lecturer in History at the Open University who specialised in nineteenth-century criminal justice history.

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