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Title: Representations of paternal child killers in the English national press, 1900 to 1939
Author: Butler, Jessica
Awarding Body: University of Liverpool
Current Institution: University of Liverpool
Date of Award: 2018
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This thesis explores the newspaper coverage of a sample of 402 cases of paternal child killing committed during the period 1900 to 1939, as identified in a selection of seven English national newspapers. Five main research strands are considered in this thesis: the representation of paternal child killers; the representation of violent crimes; understandings of mental illness; conceptualisations of fatherhood; and the development of the national press. Firstly, it is argued that paternal child killers were not represented in a uniform way. Variations in newspaper coverage were determined by the biographies of paternal child killers, explanations for killing their children, reception by the public, factors involved in breakdowns of mental health, and the punishments they received. The second research strand concerns responses to and representations of violent crime. The newspaper coverage of paternal child killing is a useful source to explore attitudes to violent crime in the early twentieth century because it was not an 'everyday' crime and had sensational appeal to journalists as a news story. The third research strand of this thesis examines understandings of mental illness and criminal culpability. Newspaper accounts of paternal child killers whose sanity was in question reveal how different actors, such as the paternal child killer themselves, lay witnesses, medical experts, and legal professionals, understood mental illness and criminal culpability. The fourth research strand looks at conceptualisations of fatherhood and masculinity, particularly focussing on the centrality of economic provision. This thesis highlights how narratives of perceived failure to live up to expectations were used to explain why men killed their children. The final research strand explores how the national press changed over the period 1900 to 1939. This thesis looks at the length of coverage per case, per article, and per newspaper to assess how the selection of seven national newspapers reported on paternal child killing, how this changed over time, and what this reveals about newspaper reporting during the early twentieth century.
Supervisor: Davies, Andrew ; Sheard, Sally Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral