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Capital Punishment and the Criminal Corpse in Scotland 1740 to 1834

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posted on 11.05.2016, 12:11 authored by Rachel Bennett
Capital punishment occupies a central area of investigation within the annals of Western European penal history in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. However studies of Scotland have thus far garnered limited academic attention, especially when compared to practices in England. Based upon the extensive quantitative and qualitative analysis of previously untapped primary sources, this thesis provides the most in-depth investigation into the use of capital punishment in Scotland between 1740 and 1834 to date. It examines some of the key themes permeating the wider historiography such as the theatre of the gallows and the changing nature of the public execution from a Scottish perspective in order to both enhance the current field whilst also providing a rethinking of some of the broader assumptions. Through an analysis of the fluctuations in Scotland’s use of the death sentence and the changing public discourse towards capital punishment throughout this period, the thesis will demonstrate the unique Scottish experience. Furthermore, it will highlight notable areas of comparison with practices in England, an area of research thus far largely neglected by Scottish and English crime historians alike. While previous studies of capital punishment have ended with the public execution, a central area of investigation in this thesis will be the enacting of post-mortem punishments upon the Scottish criminal corpse in the wake of the 1752 Murder Act. An analysis of the punishments of dissection and hanging in chains, and their place within the criminal justice system’s response to the crime of murder, presents a caveat in the long term narrative of the changing nature of capital punishment between the mid-eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries.



Anderson, Clare; King, Peter

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School of Historical Studies

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University of Leicester

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