For most cultures and most of human history, the death penalty was taken for granted and directed at a wide range of offenders. In ancient Israel, death was prescribed for everything from murder and magic to blasphemy, bestiality, and cursing one's parents. In eighteenth-century Britain, more than 200 crimes were punishable by death, including theft, cutting down a tree, and robbing a rabbit warren. China of the late Qing dynasty had some 850 capital crimes, many reflecting the privileged position of male over female and senior over junior.

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