Crime and Punishment in Victorian Edinburgh
by Lynne Wilson
A selection of true crimes, punishments and court cases from Edinburgh in the Victorian era, giving a mixture of humorous, harrowing and strange accounts of Victorian crime in this city.
Edinburgh found fame as the seat of learning in the Victorian era, leading the way in knowledge and enlightenment. But what was the true picture of Victorian life; of people trapped in a cycle of poverty and crime, living in cramped conditions, with alcohol and laudanum abuse commonplace? By reading some of the real life court stories, prison reports and newspaper articles from the Victorian period, uncover the social problems, the prison conditions and the disparity in a legal system that would sentence one person to seven years imprisonment for a petty theft, whilst sentencing another to only a few months for culpable homicide. Find out how the Victorians dealt with youth crime and disorder, and the work of reformers who sought to make positive changes. Follow some of the more notorious cases from the trial through to the criminal’s time in prison and finally the public spectacle of the resulting execution. Also, read about the emergence of Forensic Medicine and the use of expert witnesses in court trials, and finally, draw your own conclusions as to the significance of ‘Victorian values’ within a society which faced many of the social problems we have today.
- Lynne Wilson, July 2011
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