In the early hours of 31 August 1888, a killer came out of the shadows in the narrow streets of Whitechapel, London, and claimed the first of his five victims. On the 9 November 1888, after slaughtering his final victim he evaporated seemingly into thin air. Who was the notorious Jack the Ripper? With a list of suspects that seems to grow at least one … Continue reading Jack the Ripper: the Whitechapel Murderer
Thirty-two years after being built, Walton Prison in Liverpool witnessed its first execution. On 14 March 1887, Elizabeth Berry suffered the ignominy of being the first prisoner and one of only two women to be executed there. The execution chamber was hastily built. It appears that a reprieve for the prisoner was expected and when this was not granted, the Coach House, an outbuilding where … Continue reading Walton Prison’s First Execution: Elizabeth Berry, Serial Poisoner?
The Proceedings of the Old Bailey Online is a fantastic resource for historians and it is one I return to time and again. I’ve used it as a basis for the study of poisoning crimes in nineteenth-century London and for various assignments that needed the bolstering of a primary source or two. It’s a fascinating insight into centuries of crime in London; the crimes that … Continue reading Witchcraft, Petty Treason and Poisoner? Women on Trial at the Old Bailey, London
Emily Wilding Davison’s infamy was guaranteed when she stepped in front of the King’s horse, Anmer, at the 1913 Epsom Derby. Emily, in a long campaign of civil disobedience as a member of the Women’s Social and Political Union (WSPU), was a vociferous agitator for equal voting rights with men. In late 1911, she attempted to set fire to the contents of the pillar box … Continue reading Suffragettes and the Post: Pillar Box Attacks in Edwardian Britain
The current Hollywood scandal engulfing Harvey Weinstein is sending shockwaves across showbiz communities. Almost daily new allegations emerge from actresses who accuse him of sexual harassment and even assault. Weight has been added to the accusations (if it were needed) as damning audio has emerged of Weinstein trying to entice a female into his hotel room, along with respected Oscar winning A-list stars, Angelina Jolie … Continue reading Fatty Arbuckle: Hollywood’s First Sex Scandal
In the early modern period, there was a huge stigma attached to having a child born outside of marriage. The distress and shame of the unmarried mothers-to-be would sometimes manifest itself in a mania, which led the new mother to murder her baby during birth. Not all women showed signs of mental illness; some babies were murdered with deliberate violence. However, not all women were … Continue reading Infanticide in the Early Modern Period: Account for the Relatively Low Conviction Rate in Cases of New-born Child Murder in England
The case of Eliza (or Elizabeth) Fenning caused much debate in 1815. Eliza was a domestic servant, aged twenty, who was accused of poisoning her employer, Robert Turner, and two other members of his family, with arsenic laced dumplings. She vehemently denied this and claimed that she had eaten the meal and was subsequently sick. She was arrested and sent for trial at … Continue reading Eliza Fenning – a Nineteenth Century Poisoner?
In Part 1 I discussed my use of archives while researching my family history, describing how digital archives were the catalyst for my research in various archives in Britain and Ireland spanning several years. With ten years’ archival research behind me, I decided to study for a history degree. Those years were invaluable to me, as I headed into the archives within weeks of starting … Continue reading Digital v Physical Archives: a Personal Account, Part 2