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Title: The Moors Murders : the media, cultural representations of Ian Brady, Myra Hindley, and the English landscape, c. 1965-1967
Author: Field, Ian Thomas
ISNI:       0000 0004 5920 3339
Awarding Body: University of Manchester
Current Institution: University of Manchester
Date of Award: 2016
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Abstract:
On 6 May 1966 the ‘Trial of the Century’ came to an end. Chester Assizes court convicted Ian Brady and Myra Hindley for the murders of 12-year-old John Kilbride, 10-year-old Lesley Ann Downey, and 17-year-old Edward Evans. The court found Brady guilty on all three murder charges and sentenced him to three concurrent life sentences. Hindley received two life sentences for the murders of Downey and Evans, and a further seven years for being an after-the-fact accomplice in Brady’s murder of Kilbride. Following the description already given to the police investigation and trial, the newspapers gave Brady and Hindley the infamous label of the ‘Moors Murderers’ straight after the trial. The Moors murders have become a part of British folklore since the 1960s, but the case itself has hitherto received surprisingly little attention from academic historians. Following Martin Wiener’s injunction for historians to pay closer attention to murder stories, this doctoral thesis presents a cultural history of the Moors murders case. My study analyses the courtroom arguments, media coverage and post-trial books about the case, to interrogate broader themes of moral and cultural change in 1960s Britain. My thesis emphasises the multi-vocal nature of representations of both the case and the murderers in order to challenge the linear and progressive historiographies of the 1960s, associated in particular with Arthur Marwick. The thesis examines four major facets of the Moors murders story, dedicating a chapter to each. The first chapter explores how the news media (primarily the press, but also broadcast media) negotiated the story. The first detailed empirical analysis of newspaper coverage of the case reveals the limitations of studies structured primarily around social class. The thesis follows Stuart Hall and A.C.H. Smith in arguing that analyses of the press should not be reduced to a simple differentiation between popular, middle-brow and high-brow but should instead consider the ‘personalities’ of each publication and the moral relationships constructed with readers. Furthermore, the chapter engages with Adrian Bingham’s recent argument about the moral politics of the press, exploring his assertion that the popular press balanced commercial profits alongside a commitment to maintain their reputation as ‘family newspapers’. The chapter argues that content of the press coverage of the Moors murders case generated far greater concerns than the suspect practices of journalists. Chapters two and three focus in turn on the diverse representations of Ian Brady and Myra Hindley. Commentators debated the origins of the evil behind the murders, with some highlighting his illegitimacy, others his reading of ‘dangerous’ books, the writings of the Marquis de Sade especially. Hindley’s role was hotly contested: most commentators emphasised how she had changed under Brady’s influence, but disagreed over the extent of her own involvement in the murders. The thesis reveals for the first time how images of Nazi Germany shadowed the case. The thesis thus contributes to historical investigations of permissiveness in post-war England, engaging with debates about censorship, child-rearing, the changing role of women, and the popular memory of the holocaust. The fourth and final chapter analyses the tensions generated around a murder story which took place in urban settings, but which became indelibly associated with the rural locations of the moors. The story mobilised a distinctive combination of gothic imagery with a long literary heritage, and the more recent language of social realism.
Supervisor: Jones, Max ; Mort, Frank Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID: uk.bl.ethos.686801  DOI: Not available
Keywords: Murder ; Manchester ; 1960s ; post-war ; Moral and cultural change ; Ian Brady ; Myra Hindley ; Moors Murders ; English landscape
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