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Crime and punishment

Key Texts

  • Heather Shore, 'Crime, policing and punishment' in Chris Williams (ed.), Companion to Nineteenth-century Britain
  • V. A. C. Gattrell, 'Crime, authority and the policeman state' in F. M. L. Thompson (ed.), Cambridge Social History of Britain, vol 3
  • Special issue on crime and history, British Journal of Criminology, 39 (1999):
      • A. Davies and G. Pearson, '
      • H. Shore, '
      • J. E. Archer, '
      • S. D'Cruze, '
        B. Godfrey, '
        A. Davies, '"
        J. K. Walton, M. Blinkhorn, C. Pooley, D. Tidswell, and M. J. Winstanley, '
      • P. King, '


  • A. L. Beier, 'Identity, Language, and Resistance in the Making of the Victorian "Criminal Class" : Mayhew's Convict Revisited', Journal of British Studies, 44 (2005)
  • Carolyn Conley, 'Wars among Savages : Homicide and Ethnicity in the Victorian United Kingdom', Journal of British Studies, 44 (2005)
  • M Ignatieff, A just measure of pain, the penitentiary in the industrial revolution
  • Randall McGowen, 'Civilizing punishment: the end of public execution in England', Journal of British Studies, 33 (1994)
  • Howard Taylor, 'Rationing crime: the political economy of police statistics since the 1850s', Economic History Review, 1998
  • David Taylor, 'Conquering the British Ballarat : The Policing of Victorian Middlesbrough', Journal of Social History, 37 (2004)
  • Preeti Nijhar, 'Imperial Violence : the "Ethnic" as a Component of the "Criminal" Class in Victorian England', Liverpool Law Review, 27 (2006)

Seminar Questions

  • What were the characteristics of the 'criminal classes' (gender, class, race, age etc) in the minds of middle-class Victorians?
  • Search the Old Bailey Online or nineteenth-century newspapers? Are there typical victims/perpetrators?
  • Do perceptions of crime match crime rates in Victorian England?
  • What were the changes in policing and what effect did these have?
  • Should prisons be viewed as instruments of 'social discipline, the products of class conflict and the stresses of a market economy'?
  • How effective were Victorian instruments of punishment?


Further Reading

V Bailey (ed.), Policing and punishment in 19th century Britain

K Chesney, The Victorian Underworld

Andy Croll, 'Who's afraid of the Victorian underworld?'. The Historian, 84 (2004)

J Davis, 'A poor man's system of justice: the London police courts', Historical Journal, 1984

Clive Emsley, Policing and its context, 1750-1870

Clive Emsley, Crime and Society in England, 1750-1900

David Englander, 'Henry Mayhew and the Criminal Classes of Victorian England : The Case Reopened', Criminal Justice History, 17 (2002)

Michel Foucault, Discipline and Punish: the birth of the prisons

V. A. C. Gatrell (ed.), Crime and Law

V. A. C. Gattrell, The Hanging Tree: execution and the English people, 1770-1868

J Gillis, 'The evolution of juvenile delinquency', Past and Present, 1975

Peter King, 'The rise of juvenile delinquency in England 1780-1840: changing patterns of perception and prosecution', Past & Present, 1998

Andrew Mangham, Violent women and sensation fiction : crime, medicine and Victorian popular culture

Randell McGowen, 'The Body and Punishment in Eighteenth-Century England', Journal of Modern History, 59 (1987)

Randell McGowen, 'A Powerful Sympathy: terror, the prison, and humanitarian reform in early nineteenth-century Britain', Journal of British Studies, 25 (1986)

David Philips, Crime and authority in Victorian England

David Philips and Robert Storch, Policing provincial England, 1829-56

P. Priestley, Victorian prison lives: English prison biography

George Rudé, Crime and victim: crime and society in early 19th century England

R Sindall, Street violence in the 19th century

R Storch, 'A plague of blue locusts: police reform and popular resistance', International Review of Social History, 1975

Roger Swift, 'Urban policing and social control', History, 1988

Roger Swift, Behaving badly? : Irish migrants and crime in the Victorian city

David Taylor, Crime, Policing and Punishment in England, 1750-1914

J J Tobias, Crime and police in England, 1700-1900

Martin Wiener, Deconstructing the criminal

Sarah Wilson, 'Law, Morality and Regulation : Victorian Experiences of Financial Crime', British Journal of Criminology, 46 (2006)

Lucia Zedner, Women, Crime and Custody

Panopticon design, Jeremy Bentham 1791