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03 January 2013

PUBLICATION: Crime, Courtrooms and the Public Sphere in Britain

Crime, Courtrooms and the Public Sphere in Britain, 1700-1850, Edited by David Lemmings, University of Adelaide, Australia, Ashagte, December 2012.
 
Modern criminal courts are characteristically the domain of lawyers, with trials conducted in an environment of formality and solemnity, where facts are found and legal rules are impartially applied to administer justice. Recent historical scholarship has shown that in England lawyers only began to appear in ordinary criminal trials during the eighteenth century, however, and earlier trials often took place in an atmosphere of noise and disorder, where the behaviour of the crowd - significant body language, meaningful looks, and audible comment - could influence decisively the decisions of jurors and judges. This collection of essays considers this transition from early scenes of popular participation to the much more orderly and professional legal proceedings typical of the nineteenth century, and links this with another important shift, the mushroom growth of popular news and comment about trials and punishments which occurred from the later seventeenth century. It hypothesizes that the popular participation which had been a feature of courtroom proceedings before the mid-eighteenth century was not stifled by ‘lawyerization’, but rather partly relocated to the ‘public sphere’ of the press, partly because of some changes connected with the work of the lawyers....

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