The ‘cultural afterlife’ of murder: cases, places and spaces in twentieth-century London

Neale, Alexa Hannah Leah (2016) The ‘cultural afterlife’ of murder: cases, places and spaces in twentieth-century London. In: Institute of Historical Research Modern British History Seminar, 18 February 2016, Institute of Historical Research (School of Advanced Study, University of London), Senate House, Malet Street, London WC1E 7HU.

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Abstract

This paper builds on the work of my thesis to argue for a wider use of criminal case files in twentieth century social and cultural history and geography, although they have much to offer other disciplines as well. It argues for a deeper critical intervention than has previously been applied to these types of sources, one that considers very carefully the production of the different types of documents contained within crime files, with a view to revealing some of the purposes, precedents, agendas and assumptions embedded within the extensive information they provide. Rather than investigating the, often cryptic, bureaucratic processes involved with a view to tempering or limiting their application, I argue that these analyses of the case files are revealing in themselves. By historically situating and comparing cases from different decades, contemporary concerns in crime and broader society are revealed. Common cultural constructs emerge. The extent to which the values and assumptions of police and court, the creators of the files, shaped the narratives and understandings of the crimes, spaces, and individuals they were investigating is infinitely fascinating in itself. Further, the information newspapers selected to report on, and the way they interpreted the most important aspects of a crime are also telling. Not only culturally and socially but geographically. Who was expected to be committing crime and why? Which areas of London were ‘unusual’ sites of criminal activity? And how were serious crimes narrativised and explained for a national readership within the, often unspoken, rules of press reporting?

Item Type: Conference or Workshop Item (Paper)
Schools and Departments: School of History, Art History and Philosophy > History
Subjects: D History General and Old World > DA History of Great Britain > DA020 England > DA129 By period > DA300 Modern, 1485- > DA566 20th century
D History General and Old World > DA History of Great Britain > DA020 England > DA670 Local history and description > DA675 London
Depositing User: Alexa Hannah Leah Neale
Date Deposited: 13 Oct 2016 12:49
Last Modified: 13 Oct 2016 12:49
URI: http://sro.sussex.ac.uk/id/eprint/64759
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