Cesare Beccaria

(1738 - 1794)

As a member of a group of self-styled philosophes known as the Academy of Fisticuffs—as their discussions reputedly ended in fights—Cesare Beccaria underwent what he called a “philosophical conversion” to French Enlightenment ideas upon reading Montesquieu’s Persian Letters in 1761. “I myself owe everything to French books,” he claimed. His treatise opposing capital punishment, the use of torture, and secret proceedings influenced legislative reforms throughout Europe and North America.

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