Perceptions of Parental Child Homicide in English Popular Visual Culture 1800-1850
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This article discusses in depth several English illustrated broadsides produced in the first half of the nineteenth century and depicting child homicides. It provides the most detailed analysis to date of the complex interplay of illustration, verse and prose on murder sheets from the period. The cultural representations of homicides of children found in these broadsides contributed in important ways to understandings of culpability for the killings of infants and young children. Rather than simply illustrating the texts on the broadsides, the visual images amplified the emotional resonance of this medium, arguably increasing its effectiveness. In the hands of anonymous, plebeian ballad writers, copy writers, engravers and printers, these dramatic narratives of child killing and the fates of those accused expressed many things that resonated with wider discourse: deep seams of gender hostility, with men sometimes being blamed for women’s killings, and women for men’s; deep anxieties about the vulnerability of child life in the face of both female and male monstrosity; anxieties about the possibility of madness instigating appalling deeds; rich moral and religious messages about crime and redemption; and strong and complex links between popular cultural understanding and experience and formal legal proceedings.
Arnot, Margaret L. (2017). 'Perceptions of Parental Child Homicide in English Popular Visual Culture 1800-1850', SOLON Law, Crime and History, 7(1), p. 16-74.