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Print Culture and Responses to Crime in Mid-Eighteenth-Century London

Ward, Richard (2010) Print Culture and Responses to Crime in Mid-Eighteenth-Century London. PhD thesis, University of Sheffield.

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Abstract

The historiography of eighteenth-century crime, justice, and the law is one greatly divided between the study of the administration of the law as a social history of experience and the study of crime literature as a cultural history of representation. We have little sense of the relationship between representation and response. The following thesis bridges this historiographical divide in order to assess the impact of print upon perceptions of, and responses to, crime. With a huge increase in the output of printed crime literature and significant developments in responses to crime, metropolitan London in the period 1747-1755 represents an excellent case study for investigating the relationship between representation and response. It is argued that (in addition to direct experience) contemporary perceptions of crime were heavily influenced by print. For the most part contemporaries took crime literature at face value, coming to anxious conclusions about the state of crime. At mid century, various genres of print represented crime as an especially pressing, serious, and threatening social problem, but at the same time suggested that the justice system was to some extent capable of dealing with the threat. This had a likely significant impact upon responses to crime, for the middling- and upper-classes who were the primary audience of crime literature were also the key decision makers in the justice system. Print did in many ways have an impact upon prosecutorial, policing, and punishment practices in mid-eighteenth-century London. But its influence upon responses to crime was neither uniform nor absolute. Rather, print’s impact was mediated by a number of factors, particularly the context within which contemporary responses to crime took place. By placing representation and response within the context of one another, we can better understand the nature of both.

Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
Keywords: Crime, justice, print culture, London, eighteenth century
Academic Units: The University of Sheffield > Faculty of Arts and Humanities (Sheffield) > History (Sheffield)
Depositing User: Dr Richard Ward
Date Deposited: 04 Mar 2011 10:27
Last Modified: 08 Aug 2013 08:46
URI: http://etheses.whiterose.ac.uk/id/eprint/1257

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