In 17th & 18th century England, debtor-prisoners were numerous. Estimates of the extraordinarily high number of debtor-prisoners varied widely.
Debtor imprisonment existed in ancient Judea, the ancient Islamic world, and in medieval Europe.
The prevalence of debtor-prisoners in England was much greater in 1670 than in any subsequent time.
Haagen estimated that prisoners for debt in England peaked at 6000 about 1729. A peak of 15000 in 1670 is a better estimate.
From 1670, when debtors accounted for roughly 90% of prisoners, the share of debtor-prisoners declined to 10% by 1840.
In 17th and 18th century England, husbands were legally subject to imprisonment for debt, but wives weren’t. That created distinctive concerns for men.
Physical threat to the debtor’s body from debt law was a well-understood reality for Merchant of Venice playgoers in England about 1600.
The early-modern English practice of imprisoning defaulting debtors at the will of the creditor was distinctive across Europe and Islamic lands.
Population ratios do not aggregate linearly.
Under English common law, wives who committed criminal acts in their husbands’ presence had a presumption under law of husband criminal responsibility