Capital punishment was widely applied in ancient times; it can be found (c.1750 B.C.) in the Code of Hammurabi. From the fall of Rome to the beginnings of the modern era, capital punishment was practiced throughout Western Europe. The modern movement for the abolition of capital punishment began in the 18th cent. with the writings of Montesquieu and Voltaire, as well as Cesare Beccaria's Essay on Crimes and Punishments (1764). In Great Britain, Jeremy Bentham was influential in having the number of capital crimes reduced in the 18th and 19th cent. Some of the first countries to abolish capital punishment included Venezuela (1863), San Marino (1865), and Costa Rica (1877).
The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2012, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.