Crime news in Britain

- between the eighteenth and twentieth centuries

The Crime, Criminal Law and Criminology in History Network (CCCH) welcomes you to a seminar on crime and the media.


Welcome - Sverre Flaatten, Department of Criminology and Sociology of Law

Lecture by professor John Carter Wood, Leibniz Institute of European History

Comments by professor Per Ole Johansen, Department of Criminology and Sociology of Law


Crime and the criminal justice system have been significant topics in “news” media since at least the eighteenth century. Between the mid eighteenth and the mid twentieth centuries, there have been aspects of continuity and change in “crime news.”

In this lecture, Wood will focus especially on the newspaper press in Britain, which became the most significant medium for crime-related journalism by the second half of the nineteenth century. Crime news has consistently offered a distorted view of crime, with the greatest attention being given to those crimes that least frequently appear in official statistics; for historians, this inaccuracy can, however, reveal distinctive fears and attitudes in historical contexts.

“Human interest” reporting, while often sensationalist, has sometimes contained social critiques cast in a more digestible language for a general readership; while often critiqued (or simply looked down upon) by scholars, the popular press is being reconsidered in recent historiography.

About Carter Wood:

John Carter Wood is the author of Violence and Crime in Nineteenth-Century England: The Shadow of Our Refinement and The Most Remarkable Woman in England: Poison, Celebrity and the Trials of Beatrice Pace.

He has also written several articles, book chapters and reviews in the fields of violence, crime, police and media history. Based since 2011 at the Leibniz Institute of European History in Mainz, Germany, Dr. Wood is now engaged in an externally funded project on the reactions of a Christian intellectual group in Britain to the European crises of the 1930s and 1940s.

Published Dec. 11, 2014 3:14 PM - Last modified Feb. 20, 2020 3:16 PM