The Trial spans a vast distance, opening in the dread silence of the Egyptian Hall of the Dead and ending with the melodramas and hubbub of the twenty-first century trial circus. Reconciliation and vengeance, secrecy and spectacle, and superstition and reason intertwine continually as it crosses from the marbled courtrooms of Athens through the ordeal pits of Anglo-Saxon England, past the torture chambers of the Inquisition to the judicial theatres of seventeenth-century Salem, 1930s Moscow and post-war Nuremberg to the virtual courtrooms of modern Hollywood. Kadri shows throughout how the trial has always been concerned to do more than guarantee fairness and hold human beings to account for their deliberate crimes. He recounts how insentient and irrational defendants from caterpillars to corpses were once summonsed to court, given lawyers - before being exiled for their failure to attend or sentenced to die again - and argues that the same urge to punish lives on in today's trials of children and the mentally ill. But although Justice’s sword has always been double-edged - as ready to destroy a community’s enemies as to defend its dreams of due process - the judicial contest also operates to enshrine some of the western world’s most cherished values. The show trials of Stalin's Soviet Union were shams, but Guantanamo Bay and Abu Ghraib are a reminder that no-trials are equally unjust, and at a time when our constitutional landscape seems to be melting away, an appreciation of the criminal courtroom’s history is more necessary than ever. As the government of Tony Blair launches an almost annual attempt to truncate trial by jury, and as authorities on both sides of the Atlantic are indefinitely detaining entire categories of people in the name of an endless war on terror, The Trial could hardly be more timely.