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Title: Morality for the masses : the social significance of crime and punishment discourse in British broadsides, 1800-1850
Author: Bates, Kate
Awarding Body: Keele University
Current Institution: Keele University
Date of Award: 2013
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This thesis is a study of the sociological significance of crime and punishment discourse in early-nineteenth-century broadsides. Broadsides were a form of street literature and, for almost 300 years until the late nineteenth century, were a forerunner to our modern tabloid newspapers. As such, they were published on a wide range of topics, but by far the most prevalent were those covering violent crime, especially murder, and the public execution of criminals. The publication of this genre of broadside reached a peak in the first half of the nineteenth century and its popular appeal was greatest among the labouring poor. This has led several scholars to propose two prominent, yet contrasting, arguments: namely, that this ‘gallows literature’ should be read as either evidence of attempts at ideological social control or merely as a form of debased, sensationalistic entertainment. However, this thesis proposes that broadsides actually reveal ordinary people’s thoughts and feelings about crime and criminal justice and, as such, reflect common moralities and mentalities. By presenting a detailed discourse analysis of 650 broadsides printed all over Britain between the years 1800-1850, this thesis provides an alternative interpretation as to the form, function and meaning of their narratives of crime. This interpretation is based upon the social theories of Emile Durkheim, who recognised the higher utility of crime and punishment as being one of social integration and the preservation of moral boundaries. The central argument of this thesis, therefore, is that broadsides relating to crime and punishment were a form of moral communication for the masses and that they are examples of how the working class once attempted to bolster a sense of stability and community, during the transitional years of the early nineteenth century, by effectively representing both a consolidation and celebration of their core values and beliefs.
Supervisor: Not available Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available
Keywords: HV1 Criminology