Prison life both fascinates and repels. As with many aspects of punishment, it attracts the interest of both academics and the general public. In this short and accessible article, the principal issues of prison life are presented in a historical context that traces the emergence of focused academic study of the way people live, and die, in prison. The most influential theoretical perspectives are clearly set out alongside a discussion of their influence on research and analysis in the UK and beyond. Questions of women's experience and that of black and minority ethnic prisoners are explored before a consideration of postcolonial prison studies is introduced. These studies of prison life beyond the axis of Europe and North America challenge some of the accumulated academic wisdom of Anglophone and European studies of prison life, indicating the potential of novel developments to come in an era which, unfortunately, shows no signs of declining to produce more and more prisons.