1st Edition

Invisible Voices The Black Presence in Crime and Punishment in the UK, 1750–1900

By Martin Glynn Copyright 2023
    228 Pages 14 B/W Illustrations
    by Routledge

    228 Pages 14 B/W Illustrations
    by Routledge

    Invisible Voices explores the intersection of criminology and history as a way of contextualizing the historical black presence in crime and punishment in the UK. Through case studies, court transcripts, and biographical accounts it reimagines the understanding/s of the role of history in shaping contemporary perceptions. The book:

    • Moves beyond the confines of presenting ‘criminological history’ as monocultural
    • Demonstrates how ‘mainstream criminology’ is complicit in obscuring ‘hidden criminological histories'
    • Critically assesses the implications regarding the positioning of ‘the black presence’ within the discipline of criminology
    • Revises current thinking around excluded, marginalized, and muted histories, when looking at ‘crime and punishment’ as a whole.

    The opening chapters lay the foundation for locating the historical black presence in crime and punishment, whilst offering practical guidance for anyone wanting to pursue the journey of unearthing hidden history. Chapters 5–9 comprise compelling case studies designed to fuel new discussions regarding important excluded voices in crime and punishment history. The following chapters reveal powerful testimonies from those black voices involved in speaking out against slavery during the Georgian and Victorian periods, and highlight the pivotal role played by black activists during significant periods of British history. Chapter 12 explores ‘The Black Rage Defence’, illuminating a moment in British legal history which tied both the UK and US into a struggle for validating mental health and offending, where race was a significant factor. The final chapter focuses on the need to engage criminologists in a critical dialogue regarding a reimagining of the way criminological history is (re)presented.

    Invisible Voices is crucial reading for students not just of Criminology and History, but also Sociology, Cultural Studies, Black Studies and Law, as well as criminal justice practitioners. It also aims to provide scope for A-Level students contemplating going to university, community educational programmes, and prison education departments, as well as anyone wanting to learn more about the black presence in UK history.

    SECTION 1 Locating the Black Presence in Crime and Punishment


    • CHAPTER 1 Towards a Black (Historical) Criminological Imagination
    • CHAPTER 2 Researching the Black Presence in Crime and Punishment
    • CHAPTER 3 Gathering the Information
    • CHAPTER 4 Don’t Gaslight Me, Slavery Matters

    SECTION 2 Trials and Transcripts

    • CHAPTER 5 The Case of Arthur William Hodge
    • CHAPTER 6 The Case of John Kimber
    • CHAPTER 7 The Case of Sir Thomas Picton
    • CHAPTER 8 The Case of William Woodcock
    • CHAPTER 9 The Case of John Hogan

    SECTION 3 Black Voices Speak

    • CHAPTER 10 Visible Voices
      • Provocation
      • The Case of James Sommersett – The Negro Case
      • Olaudah Equiano
      • Mary Prince
      • Ottobah Cugoano
    • CHAPTER 11 Activists, Participants, and Rulers
      • Provocation
      • William Davidson – Cato Street Conspiracy
      • William Cuffay
      • The Chartist Movement
      • Robert Wedderburn
      • The Ten-Point Program
      • Black Police Officers
      • Robert Branford, 1817–1869: London Police Superintendent
      • John Kent 190
      • Richard ‘King Dick’ Crafus
    • CHAPTER 12 McNaughton and Black Rage
    • Epilogue Criminologist as Historian


    Martin Glynn is a criminologist with over thirty-five years’ experience of working in criminal justice, public health, and educational settings. Martin gained his PhD at Birmingham City University in February 2013, where he is currently a lecturer in criminology, alongside being the writer in residence at the National Justice Museum (Notttingham). Published works by Dr Glynn include Black Men, Invisibility, and Desistance from Crime: Towards a Critical Race Theory from Crime (Routledge, 2014), Speaking Data and Telling Stories: Data Verbalization for Researchers (Routledge, 2019), and Reimagining Black Art and Criminology: A New Criminological Imagination (2021).

    ‘Thrillingly unique and meticulously researched, Glynn provides an urgent re-imagination of criminology as we know it.’

    David Lammy, MP

    ‘Glynn makes an impassioned plea to locate the historical within the contemporary and black presence within the absence. The collation of historical sources invite the reader to envision an illuminating black historical criminological imagination that offers an important disciplinary contribution.’

    Professor Coretta Phillips, London School of Economics and Political Science

    ‘Black people’s presence in the history of criminal justice in the UK suffers from a fate even worse than the "enormous condescension of posterity" that E. P. Thompson says was imposed on the English working class. With this book Glynn supplies a corrective as he rescues black "activists, advocates, revolutionaries, writers and artists" from the oblivion of white erasure. Out of the archives rise the voices of black people from the 17th, 18th, and 19th century. Court transcripts, crime registers, slave trades, and other sources provide a presence that Glynn fashions into an important narrative. It is a narrative against condescension and oppression that points to a richer future for criminology.’

    Rod Earle, Senior Lecturer in Youth Justice, The Open University

    'Glynn argues that the discipline of criminology cannot continue to be shaped by "academic neutrality" which often involves omitting the historical experiences of Black people. Glynn shares real accounts of the brutalisation and dehumanisation that slaves were subjected to. He provides an evidence-based backdrop to the powerful points he makes about the ties of slavery to present-day systemic racism. Glynn also shares evidence of an ex-slave providing testimony in court; perhaps you were - as Glynn was - unaware that ex-slaves were permitted to testify in court. In sharing this account, Glynn highlights that the version of the history of the UK’s justice system most commonly cited is limited and excludes historic and significant Black voices. We often learn of White trailblazers or ‘elite’ Black figures active in the abolitionist movement but seem to have collective amnesia when it comes to Black activists, writers, speakers, potent forces for social progress for centuries. Glynn argues that unless we admit - academically and in society at large - that "the historical other’" continue to be reproduced in modern systems of oppression, "a continuing legacy of racialized dominance" will be perpetuated.'

    Mia Edwards, Policy and Communications Officer, Alliance for Youth Justice