A deeply engaging and completely original book about nineteenth-century Britain’s fascination with good quality murder.
Murder in nineteenth-century Britain was ubiquitous – not necessarily in quantity but in quality. This was the era of penny-bloods, early crime fiction and melodramas for the masses. This was a time when murder and entertainment were firmly entwined.
In this meticulously researched and compelling book, Judith Flanders, author of Consuming Passions, takes us back in time to explore some of the most gripping, gruesome and mind-boggling murders of the nineteenth-century. Covering the crimes (and myths) of Sweeney Todd and Jack the Ripper, as well as the lesser known but equally shocking acts of Burke and Hare, and Thurtell and Hunt, Flanders looks at how murder was regarded by the wider British population – and how it became a form of popular entertainment.
Filled to the brim with rich source material – ranging from studies of plays, novels and contemporary newspaper articles, A Social History of Murder brings to life a neglected dimension of British social history in a completely new and exciting way.
"It is a world explored with much wit and insight…Flanders is excellent…It’s a rich mix [and]…fluently written…It has every chance of becoming a bestseller."(Sunday Telegraph)
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Changed my opinion of Dickens!
I already have! I'd recommend this to anyone interested in the history of crime fiction, or of Victorian literature. There is a deep understanding of Victorian culture, along with a fascinating exploration of how the crimes of the day influenced many authors and books we now think of as classics, like Dickens, Hardy, Conan Doyle, and even Oscar Wilde and Bram Stoker.
The way the author wove in the crimes gaining media attention and how theatre and literature responded to them. She includes amazing insights into the influences crimes had on Charles Dickens' stories that make me (generally lukewarm on Dickens) want to go back and explore him again.
The wit, warmth, and occasional sarcasm she brings to her narration perfectly match the author's tone in the book. Pitch-perfect, easy to listen to, and with a good sense of how to get across sensation and scandal.
The tale of one particular woman who was executed for a murder she almost certainly didn't commit -- the book goes into detail of all the flaws in the case against her and really highlights the pathos of her story.
This book weaves many threads together: the creation of the Metropolitan Police, social fears and prejudices, issues of class, the development of the crime fiction genre, the influence of real world events on popular fiction, concepts of justice, the development of forensic science, and journalistic ethics all get a say in this remarkably complex history of crime.
couldn't get into this book