Doctoral Thesis, Department of Law, The University of Hull (1988)
This thesis is a study of aspects of change in the system of criminal justice and punishment in the eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries. In Part I it looks at the possible uses of the popular literature of crime as a source for attitudes to crime and criminal justice. This study shows that the literature can be used on two levels. First, it provides a source for the study of the detail of people’s lives and deaths in the eighteenth century and the operation of institutions. Second, it can be used as a means of examining attitudes to crime and criminal justice. However, this second use reveals that the literature is not just about crime, but is an aspect of the emergence of an increasingly confident middling section of society which looks critically not only on the labouring people, but also on the ruling elite. The literature, therefore, provides an important source for the study of this neglected section of eighteenth-century society. In Part II the literature is used as one of the source materials for a study of the criminal justice system as a public spectacle, with particular reference to capital punishment.