‘The Great Portion of the Scum of Society’? Representations of Execution Crowds in the Lancashire Press, 1830-1868
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From 1830 to the abolition of public executions in 1868, there was a growing critique of the execution crowd among elite commentators. To date, however, most, if not all, discussion of this critique has focused on the metropolis, elite groups and decision makers and on national newspapers such as The Times. The aim of this article is to shift the focus away from the metropolis towards the provinces, by exploring how the execution crowd was represented in the provincial press. While there have been several analyses of how executions were represented in the provincial press during the period, there has been little sustained discussion of how the crowd were represented. Drawing on a sample of 145 accounts of executions published between 1830 and 1868 it will explore how the execution crowd was presented in four Lancashire newspapers, the Liverpool Mercury, Manchester Times, Lancaster Gazette and Manchester Courier. It will show how the majority of reports depicted the crowd in neutral terms, passing no commentary – either negative or positive – on their composition or behaviour. One newspaper, however, the liberal Liverpool Mercury, consistently reported execution crowds in negative terms as part of its broader critique of capital punishment and public executions.
Walliss, J. (2016) '‘The Great Portion of the Scum of Society’? Representations of Execution Crowds in the Lancashire Press, 1830-1868', Law, Crime and History, 6(2), pp.54-70. Available at: https://pearl.plymouth.ac.uk/handle/10026.1/8937
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