Perceptions of crime in Victorian London: the sensationalism of the criminal justice system

Swain, Lucille (2013) Perceptions of crime in Victorian London: the sensationalism of the criminal justice system. BA dissertation, University of Portsmouth.

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    This study aims to investigate the sensationalism of crime in nineteenth century society. Sensational accounts of crime were so widely distributed and read that it altered society’s perceptions of criminals to the extent that the style of language and the themes explored in the popular press can be found within the criminal justice system. Building on the recent research carried out by Rosalind Crone, this study explores the consequences of both middle and working class readership of sensational crime reports and the creation of common expectations of crime. Making use of both newspaper archives and the recently digitised Old Bailey Session Paper archive it will become clear how sensational and real crimes became inseparably connected and influenced how society viewed criminals. This study explores the themes frequently presented in sensational crime reporting, such as infanticide and public execution, by researching contemporary newspapers The Times and Lloyd’s Weekly Newspaper. Examining contemporary newspapers will also enable the identification of the sensational language used, the emphasis on the blood and gore of stories, and the allusions to the Gothic literary genre. Furthermore, searching for the reoccurrence of these themes in the Old Bailey session papers will demonstrate the sensationalism of the criminal justice system. Using newspapers and the Old Bailey proceedings in conjunction will reveal how the appropriation and the sensationalism of real crimes consequently led to the construction of a common perception of criminal activity and the belief in the ‘criminal class’. This study will explore the power of sensationalism as a social concept in nineteenth century society, how it influenced perceptions of crime, and even affected the presentation of crime within the criminal justice system.

    Item Type: Dissertation
    Departments/Research Groups: Faculty of Humanities and Social Sciences > School of Social, Historical and Literary Studies
    Depositing User: Jane Polwin
    Date Deposited: 27 Aug 2013 16:46
    Last Modified: 28 Jan 2015 12:27

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