Opinions Throughout History: The Death Penalty Reviews

"The death penalty is dwindling in the US, falling to 22 executions in 2019, the second lowest total in almost three decades. However, a reversal in the trend is possible, if not likely. This facet of American exceptionalism is parsed by Issit's monumental source book, which breaks the drama of state-sanctioned death into 28 topics and a conclusion. Issit, an independent scholar, deserves commendation for his topical compendium, which cites Greek, Roman, and Middle Eastern antecedents, but which preponderantly centers on how the death penalty has evolved in the US from Colonial days, through the founding of the republic, and up to the present. The author focuses the theme of each chapter on one or more edited documents, which are placed within the context of the time. Almost every chapter also includes a pertinent image or two, and some fascinating and little-discussed historical segments further help to illustrate the theme. Consider, for example, the debates between the abolitionist John O'Sullivan and the capital punishment advocate Reverend George Cheever in the 1840s, or the possibility of execution for military deserters. Thoughtful commentaries assist in illuminating the analysis throughout this readable text. Summing Up: Highly recommended. All readership levels."
– CHOICE, 2020