Category Archives: Torture

1780: British officer alarmed for his foreskin




In 1780, a British East India Company regiment was defeated at Polilore by troops of the Mysore kingdom. Several hundred British soldiers were captured, held prisoner and forced into slavery. Many were forced to labour until 1784 and a few as late as 1799. Approximately 300 of these prisoners were also forcibly circumcised by their Muslim captors. One was Irish-born lieutenant colonel Cromwell Massey, who kept a secret diary during his incarceration at Seringapatam. In November 1780, Massey wrote that he and his men were:

“Terribly alarmed this morning for our foreskins.”

Massey had good cause for concern: he was circumcised shortly after. So too was a junior naval officer, who later wrote:

“I lost with the foreskin of my yard all those benefits of a Christian and Englishman which were and ever shall be my greatest glory.”

Most of these captives were liberated when a much larger British force invaded Mysore in 1799 and toppled its Muslim ruler, Tipu Sultan. Cromwell Massey was among them. He returned to Britain and lived to the age of 103, dying in Ramsgate in 1845.

Source: Various, inc. diary of Cromwell Massey, 1780. Content on this page is © Alpha History 2016. Content may not be republished without our express permission. For more information please refer to our Terms of Use or contact Alpha History.

1574: Treviso sodomites to be nailed in the private male members

In 1574 the city fathers of Treviso, a few miles north of Venice, initiated a crackdown on sodomy. These campaigns were not uncommon in Renaissance Italy, though the Treviso statutes were unusual in that they also targeted women:

If any person has sexual relations with another – that is, a man with another man (if they are 14 years old or more) or a woman with another woman (if they are 12 years old or more) then they have committed the vice of sodomy…

As might be expected, the punishments were severe. The 1574 edicts ordered that female sodomites (fregatores, or ‘friggers’) be tied naked to a stake in Treviso’s Street of Locusts. After a full day and night they were to be taken down and burned alive beyond the city walls. For males (buzerones, or ‘buggerers’) the punishment was similar, though with a painful addition:

[He] must be stripped of all clothing and fastened to a stake in the Street of Locusts, with a nail or rivet driven through his private male member. There he shall remain all day and all night, under guard, and the following day be burned outside the city.

Source: Statuta prouisionesque dudes civitatis Tarvisii, 1574. Content on this page is © Alpha History 2016. Content may not be republished without our express permission. For more information please refer to our Terms of Use or contact Alpha History.