Criminality of women in the 18th century in the South West of England
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Chapter 1: Debates and Developments in the fields of Crime History and Women's History: Frameworks, Methodolozies and Consolidation. This chapter falls into three sections. The first outlines some key issues in Crime History. The second examines the development of women's history and discusses the introduction of gender into Crime History. It is argued that the new issues that have arisen from the joining of these two disciplines have enhanced the development of Crime History. The third section discusses women's history and the study of crime and gender in the early modem period, the source material used and methodology employed in this thesis. Chapter 2: Economy and Socie!y in the South West of England: The Female Experience This chapter provides the social and economic background to the study of eighteenth-century female criminality in this region. It argues that the region constituted a pastoral rural economy; and it is within this context that the recorded criminal activities of women should be seen. The discussion develops, using the work of scholars who have examined this area of women's history, into an account of the roles and lifecycles of eighteenth-century women in these communities. Chapter 3: Female Theft in the South West This chapter falls into two distinct sections. The first is a broad examination of all recorded female property offencesi n the period. The study assessestr ends over -ivtime, using material from the Assizes Gaol Book and the Quarter Sessions Indictments. It discusses relationships between levels of prosecution and food prices and periods of war. It also seeks to identify possible reasons which types of goods were commonly recorded as stolen and discusses any trends for the prosecution of these thefts over time. The second part of the chapter is a detailed examination of the detection and prosecution of theft during the period. An emphasis has been placed on the importance of the sorts of goods stolen, as well as how they were stolen and, consequently, the type of offender most vulnerable of detection and prosecution. The section moves to focus on clothing theft and its relationship to trading networks in the eighteenth century. It places the examination of this networking within the context of the eighteenth-century clothing trade. Chapter 4: Offences Against the Person The first section of Chapter 4 concentrates on the record of assault and disorder found in the quarter sessions rolls and the assizes gaol books. It is argued that the increased use of recognizances to prosecute demonstrates the flexibility of the eighteenth-century criminal justice system. Also discussed in the section, are how assaults may be linked to other offences such as theft and how some assaults constituted unofficial punishments by communities. Although avoiding making too broad a statement about assault and disorder, it seeks to demonstrate that some cases could be representative of womenýs interests in both the public and private sphere. The second section of Chapter 4 discusses the record of homicide and infanticide for the western circuit assizes between 1735 and 1785. The section examines homicide, which seemed to predominantly occur within the familial setting. This includes the specific homicide offence of petty treason. The discussion moves on to examine infanticide, by far the most prominent female homicide offence recorded. The circumstances surrounding each case and the consequences of its discovery are examined. It is argued that a stereotyped narrative of the infanticidal woman dictated the prosecution and conviction rates of the offence.
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