This is a masterful effort to recognize and place the prison and asylums in their social contexts. Rothman shows that the complexity of their history can be unraveled and usefully interpreted. By identifying the salient influences that converged in the tumultuous 1820s and 1830s that led to a particular ideology in the development of prisons and asylums, Rothman provides a compelling argument that is historically informed and socially instructive. He weaves a comprehensive story that sets forth and portrays a series of interrelated events, influences, and circumstances that are shown to be connected to the development of prisons and asylums. Rothman demonstrates that meaningful historical interpretation must be based upon not one but a series of historical events and circumstances, their connections and ultimate consequences. Thus, the history of prisons and asylums in the youthful United States is revealed to be complex but not so complex that it cannot be disentangled, described, understood, and applied.