This edited collection offers multi-disciplinary reflections and analysis on a variety of themes centred on nineteenth century executions in the UK, many specifically related to the fundamental change in capital punishment culture as the execution moved from the public arena to behind the prison wall. By examining a period of dramatic change in punishment practice, this collection of essays provides a fresh historical perspective on nineteenth century execution culture, with a focus on Scotland, Wales and the regions of England.
From Public Spectacle to Hidden Ritual has two parts. Part 1 addresses the criminal body and the witnessing of executions in the nineteenth century, including studies of the execution crowd and executioners’ memoirs, as well as reflections on the experience of narratives around capital punishment in museums in the present day. Part 2 explores the treatment of the execution experience in the print media, from the nineteenth and into the twentieth century.
The collection draws together contributions from the fields of Heritage and Museum Studies, History, Law, Legal History and Literary Studies, to shed new light on execution culture in nineteenth century Britain. This volume will be of interest to students and academics in the fields of criminology, heritage and museum studies, history, law, legal history, medical humanities and socio-legal studies.
Chapter 1, ‘[T]he broken stave at the top of the ladder of England’s civilisation’: Representing the ending of public execution in 1868.
PART 1: Going to See a Man Hanged:
Chapter 2, ‘A practice which wounds only the living’: Publicly Punishing the Criminal Body in Nineteenth-Century Scotland.
Chapter 3, ‘Every Loathsome Reptile Form of Vice and Crime’. Formulations of the Nineteenth-Century London Execution Crowd: Fears, Fictions and Realities.
Chapter 4, ‘How Murderers Die’: The Impact of the 1868 Abolition of Public Execution on Life-writing by Executioners.
Chapter 5, ‘Stand in the place of those executed’: Interpreting Capital Punishment in UK Prison Museums.
PART 2: ‘One had better narrate the circumstances as they occurred’
Chapter 6, ‘[…] were sensation our object, it would not be difficult to cull from the Newgate Calendar’: Periodical Journalism and Distaste for Public Executions, c. 1830-1870.
Chapter 7, George Vass: the making and un-making of a criminal monster.
Helen Rutherford and Clare Sandford-Couch
Chapter 8, The ‘Hermetically sealed’ Prison: Witnessing Executions in the North East of England 1868-1878.
Chapter 9, The only consolation is that the criminal is not a Welshman: The foreign-born men hanged in Wales, 1840-1900.
Stephanie Emma Brown
'Execution Culture offers a series of intriguing case studies in the ways that an absence becomes present in a culture.'
- Michael Meranze, University of California, Los Angeles