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Homicide and 'Englishness': Criminal Justice and National Identity in Victorian England

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Abstract:

One venue for the formation of national identity that has received comparatively little attention in recent years, is that of the courtroom. In particular, the treatment of serious crimes in Victorian England involved a good deal of reference to notions of Englishness. In the course of their routine work, Victorian criminal courts promulgated particular and generally coherent views as to how 'an Englishman', as opposed to a foreigner, was expected to behave. This article examines how the judicial treatment of three types of nineteenth-century violence - the duel, knife-fighting and the killing of an adulterous spouse or his or her lover - contributed to reshaping the contours of male English national identity.

Keywords: Englishness; Victorian England; adultery; criminal justice; duelling

Document Type: Research Article

DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/1460894042000312312

Affiliations: Rice University USA

Publication date: January 1, 2004

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