Torture is associated most closely with the absolute monarchies of history and the totalitarian and dictatorial regimes of the more recent past and present day.
The classical world employed it widely though by no means indiscriminately, while in the West it doesn't seem to have been used systematically until the medieval era. After the Enlightenment of the eighteenth century, western countries began banning it - though actual practice didn't necessarily keep pace with official legislation. Even in the last few years, such democratic countries as Denmark, the UK, and the United States have at one time or another, it is claimed, strayed over the boundary between justifiably close and actually abusive questioning.
The Instruments of Torture looks at the techniques and tools used in torture, ranging from the earliest known historical instances of the practice right up to the present time and covering practices used throughout the world. The different methods of inflicting pain are grouped by type (stretching, for instance, having been used particularly in the European Renaissance as well as being still widespread in the Middle East), showing the grim parallels in torture as used in different cultures and contexts.