Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Thumbscrew Torture Device


Now, people know what this contraption is? These are thumb screws. Thumbscrews are basically an instrument of torture.
They would be used on a slave ship in the aftermath, especially of an uprising, and insurrection in which the ring leaders would have their thumbs placed under the metal loops, the key turned producing a kind of pain that is almost indescribable from what I can learn of it.

Leaving a man in that condition for hours if not days and after which the thumb might have to be amputated. In his parliamentary testimony, John Newton said, “I have known slave ship captains to use thumbscrews that produce the most excruciating pain among the enslaved”.
I dare say he did know it because he himself had used them as he describes in his journal, and moreover folks, he used them on children on one occasion because he thought they had passed tools to the men through the gratings which they then used to get out of their irons and to try to rise up and capture the ship. (Talk given by Marcus Rediker in November 2007 at Merseyside Maritime Museum, Liverpool Museum)

The thumbscrews or pilliwinks is a torture instrument which was first used in medieval Europe. It is a simple vice, sometimes with protruding studs on the interior surfaces. The victim's thumbs or fingers were placed in the vice and slowly crushed. The thumbscrew was also applied to crush prisoners' big toes. The crushing bars were sometimes lined with sharp metal points to puncture the nails and inflict greater pain in the nail beds. Larger, heavier devices based on the same design principle were applied to crush knees and elbows.


  1. Replies
    1. you shouldn't be rude like that

    2. fuck you asshole

  2. how would you feel if tht happened to you? that is such a bad way of humanity...we shouldnt even be called human if thats the way we are gonna treat people

    1. Yes, the thumbscrew is an inhuman torture device (as if ANY "torture" device were in fact humane). Yet, they were standard issue for slave ships. Well, not only for the captive human cargo, but for sailors who disobeyed orders. Life was brutal indeed.

      Thanks for your comments.

      --Ron Edwards, US Slave Blog

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  3. we are doing about this in school and how they were used on people in Tudor Britain

    1. Absolutely! Many of the posts like the "Press Gangs" for recruitment of the Royal Navy, the Poor Houses in Great Britain, Indentured Servants (Welsh, Scottish, and Irish), the massive deportation of prison labor to the USA and Australia, as well as the burning, whipping and torture of white women (who were also masked much like black slaves) are to broaden the historical perspectives of unfree labor and human subjugation -- Some view this blog and accuse me of being "anti-white," but they miss the overarching point -- I'm just anti-oppression.

      Many of the tortures and working conditions (extreme nastiness) are just cut and pasted onto the so called "New World" from Medieval Europe. The tortures come straight from the Spanish Inquisition and the Religious Wars (Protestant vs. Catholic as well as the Crusades (Christian vs. Muslim), and the anti-Jewish, anti-Catholic, anti-Islamic, anti-Pagan, anti-Protestant -- this is why the religious freedom was Constitutionalized -- these folks were nuts (by today's standards).

    2. Ron is there a good book on crime and punishment in Europe during the time of slavery in North and South America? I would like to get a good perspective on how whites were treated during that period.

    3. {{AntelopeJMarch 24, 2013 at 11:03 AM
      Ron is there a good book on crime and punishment in Europe during the time of slavery in North and South America? I would like to get a good perspective on how whites were treated during that period.}}

      I don't think torture has a race. All of these implements of torture were taken directly from Europe. It's no wonder that so many Europeans took the first thing floating and sold themselves into a form of limited slavery called "indentured servants," just to get the hell out of there.

      The white Europeans were transported on ships that were just as gruesome as the slaves ships. Europe was a nasty and brutal place to live if you weren't the King and his cronies.

      --Ron Edwards, US Slave Blog

    4. that doesn't answer his question

    5. and thank you very much for your blog it had exacly what I needed
      and wikipedia didn't have it :)

    6. i like thumbscrews...:)

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  40. I would like to know if, in medieval England, from the 500's to the 1000's, did they use these devices the same way that the slave traders did??

    1. {{I would like to know if, in medieval England, from the 500's to the 1000's, did they use these devices the same way that the slave traders did??}}

      Yes, these are medieval torture devices from Europe. The continuity of the European Monarchs and their implements of torture were certainly just transplanted and re-purposed to deliver punishment to human beings, regardless of race or geographical location.

      At the heart of ALL ships was a floating torture chamber that transformed human beings into human things. It's some sick sh!t.

      --Ron Edwards, US Slave Blog

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