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Perceptions of the murderess in London and Paris, 1674-1789

Jenkin, Anna C. (2015) Perceptions of the murderess in London and Paris, 1674-1789. PhD thesis, University of Sheffield.

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Abstract

This project is a comparative study of print about women accused of murder in eighteenth-century London and Paris. While gender played an important role in determining how such women were perceived, in that female killers stimulated forms of social introspection that male murderers did not, this thesis demonstrates that a wider variety of factors affected the kinds of women who stimulated concern among the London and Parisian populace. Most importantly, only eleven women accused of murder stimulated high levels of print reaction in the period, implying that aspects beyond their gender were behind such reactions. Through focus on the print material and judicial records of these eleven high-profile murderesses, including ballads, pamphlets, images, novels, legal tracts and printed correspondence, this thesis will expose a number of contemporary concerns present in eighteenth-century London and Paris. In both cities, perceptions of the crime of female-perpetrated murder reflected emerging concerns about the impact of urbanisation on social structures and women’s roles, alongside shifting European-wide ideas of gender difference. Murderous women’s occupations as midwives, servants, aristocrats and household managers were used to explore broader concerns about emerging sites of female independence. Discussion of cases that involved adultery, male sociability and court intrigue were used to reveal the perceived corrupting effects of urban society. But there were noticeable differences in the ways that such women were perceived in London and Paris. Heavy censorship in Paris imbued print on high-profile murderesses with politicised messages of transgression, whereas in London a freer press saw such cases as symbolic of the tensions brought by urban growth to relations between the middle and lower classes.

Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
Academic Units: The University of Sheffield > Faculty of Arts and Humanities (Sheffield) > History (Sheffield)
Identification Number/EthosID: uk.bl.ethos.687215
Depositing User: Miss Anna C. Jenkin
Date Deposited: 22 Jun 2016 09:59
Last Modified: 03 Oct 2016 13:12
URI: http://etheses.whiterose.ac.uk/id/eprint/11794

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