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Crimes and Misdemeanours: Deviance and the Law in Historical Perspective


Second Issue: Volume 1, No 2, November 2007
ISSN 1754-0445


Editorial: (below)

Debate Forum: Responses to Position Paper 1 (Lorie Charlesworth,
'On Historical Contextualisation:Some Critical Socio-Legal Reflections' Crimes and Misdemeanours 1(2) pp. 1-40) by:
Chris Williams 'How it Actually Was'? A historian responds to 'On Historical Contextualisation' 90-94
R I Mawby The Importance of Understanding the Past: A Criminologist's Response to 'On Historical Contextualisation 95-101
Peter Bartlett 'On Historical Contextualisation': A Lawyer Responds 102-106
Reflection: Lorie Charlesworth 107-109


Martin J. Weiner Convicted Murderers and the Victorian Press: Condemnation vs. Sympathy 110-125

Ian Bryan Unpalatable in Word or Deed: Hostility, Difference and Free Expression 126-153

Romina N. Tsakiri Deviance and Morals: a study of sixteenth-century Crete under Venetian rule: A first approach 154-174

Work in Progress - Promoting New Research:

Samantha Pegg Child on Child Killing: Societal and Legal Similarities and Dissimiliarities 1840-1890 and 1950-2000 (PhD Nottingham Trent University 2007) 175-202

Conference Report:

Shani D'Cruze Crime, Violence and the Modern State, SOLON with the University of Crete, Rethymno March 2007 203-207



The second issue of SOLON’s e-journal aims to demonstrate the commitment advertised in the first issue of showcasing a range of outputs relating to interdisciplinary study in law, history and criminology/social policy. Thus as well as responses to the Debate Forum in issue one, and two articles (with a later uploading in December of a delayed third article), we publish a conference report (on the SOLON conference in Crete, in March 2007) and – in a new initiative – the introduction and conclusion of a recently successful PhD. Publishing what will, we hope, be the first of a number of PhD introductions and conclusions enables us to place in the public domain a much fuller reflection of the research of young scholars than can be gained from a thesis abstract, but without compromising their ability to publish the research content of their theses. In this way, we intend to use our Work in Progress concept to advertise to the academic and practitioner communities work that will be of relevance and interest, encouraging also responses to such publication in a discussion format which could be published in the journal. We will thereby be promoting the interdisciplinary networking that has, from the start, been one of the main objectives of SOLON.

In the previous editorial, we advertised that we expected to publish a selection of papers from the Crete conference: but the quality of these was so high that it was decided, instead, to seek their publication in an edited collection Crime, Violence and the Modern State (editors, Efi Avdela, Shani D’Cruze and Judith Rowbotham). Instead, we publish here a reflective conference report from Shani D’Cruze and one article from a young scholar, dealing with the early modern period.  The event was so successful that the intention is to continue the series, with a possible conference in 2009 in St Petersburg. SOLON’s conference activities also continue with its second Experiencing the Law conference, to be held on 7 December 2007, at the Institute of Advanced Legal Studies (further details on the SOLON and IALS/CCBH websites). A conference report on this will be featured in the Spring 2008 issue of Crimes and Misdemeanours. Sadly the War Crimes conference has had to be postponed, until February 2009, because of the inability of some international keynote speakers to attend this autumn. Rather than hold a purely academic conference, it was agreed that the event be retimed.

In the first issue, Lorie Charlesworth’s ‘On Historical Contextualisation’ provided the first contribution to our Debate Forum, and we are delighted to publish three responses to this, from a historian (Chris Williams), a criminologist  (Rob Mawby)  and a lawyer (Peter Bartlett). These essays reflect positively on her critique of the current methodologies utilised (or not) in the epistemology of historico-legal research  and respond to the challenge laid down by extending her comments in the light of their own subject interests and expertise. Chris Williams takes up the issue of the tension between past and present, and the problematisation and limitations of ‘present-centred history’,  for instance, while Rob Mawby comments on the need for the historical dimension to be contextualised more broadly as part of a better-nuanced comparative enterprise, which could strengthen structures and systems of criminal justice in the present. Peter Bartlett, commenting on the genesis of socio-legal studies and its subsequent development, has orientated his thoughts towards the historical blindness of politicians and legislators in relation to current debates over mental health legislation in a way that points out the need for the kind of history that Lorie Charlesworth argued for has also overlooked the need to challenge the intellectual certainties both law and history have traditionally relied on. Lorie Charlesworth’s own response to these comments is also interestingly reflective of the intellectual and practical dimensions to the issue of historical contextualisation, as well as outlining the need to move forward, drawing on all the perspectives highlighted by her respondents. We feel that all readers of this debate will benefit by reflecting further on their own practices – the editors certainly intend so to do. We add that, as Lorie Charlesworth herself hopes, this is not the end but the beginning – and that we shall be happy to consider any future responses provoked by this opening salvo in our debate forum, as well as any suggestions for future debate forums.


Turning to the articles, we are delighted to publish an intriguing article by one of our leading modern historians of crime, Martin Wiener, on Victorian media responses to the results of convictions for homicide in the English courts, and the extent to which this enabled the media to act as a forum for public debate over the issue of justice versus mercy, drawing out comparisons which are gendered in their perspective. While essentially a case study exercise, the use of the media format encourages the reader to consider the role of the modern media, and its involvement in present debates on similar issues. It is a thought-provoking reflection of the new discourses being opened up by scholars, including also Caroline Conley, and Shani D’Cruze. SOLON is particularly pleased to publish it as it is very much in keeping with the innovative approaches that SOLON has sought to pioneer in its publications such as Criminal Conversations.


The issue also contains two articles which emphasise how current and past societies and their related legal cultures have chosen to think alongside and ‘with’ the subject of religion and its prescriptions. Once dismissed as irrelevant to many areas of social and legal investigation religion’s reappearance upon the agendas of historians and legal scholars has understandably sparked new work of which we include two examples. Central to both these pieces is the issue of the state seeking to regulate moral behaviour with imperatives that differ from geographical and chronological contexts. Ian Bryan’s article (which is complemented by one from Romina Tsakiri) explores the issue of whether, and how effectively, public order legislation, notably the Race and Religious Hatred Act 2006 deals with unacceptable behaviour manifesting itself through verbal attacks. Ian’s focus upon how the legacies of past legislation and practice influence contemporary thinking serves to emphasise and exemplify the quality of work that combining sociolegal and historical approaches can produce. As Tsakiri’s article also underlines, the issue is a continuing historical theme as well as one with powerful resonances for today. This latter piece (commendably by a current doctoral scholar – line with the journal’s remit) demonstrates how the investigation of early modern law, control and behavioural expectations is being carried into new geographical areas. Whilst investigation of these areas is starting to appear for the more peripheral parts of northern and southern Europe it is especially pleasing to see still more previously inaccessible parts of Europe receiving their first systematic analysis. Devotees of research in this area will find Romina’s article of considerable interest as impressions from other localities receive confirming evidence whilst there are interesting new variations which invite intriguing comparative analysis.

 The Editorial Board
November 2007

Postscript, December 2007:  The first Debate Forum piece had its genesis in a joint article, as the Editorial Board was aware. However, Crimes and Misdemeanours before publishing Dr Charlesworth's Debate Forum piece in March 2007, saw correspondence between the two authors of that early version which confirmed that Professor Salter had ceded the intellectual copyright of the piece to Dr Charlesworth in early 2006. It was on that basis that the piece appeared, containing an appropriate acknowledgement of Professor Salter's contribution to the substantively different earlier version. Given that the early version of the piece has appeared in print under Professor Salter's name but without recognition of Dr Charlesworth's contribution, and also that SOLON is specifically mentioned in that text, we direct you to an amended Footnote 1, inserted to assure our readers that every effort was made by  the author and the Editorial Board to ensure that appropriate scholarly rigour was maintained in publishing our first Debate Forum piece.



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