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Criminal Women 1850-1920 (Paperback)

Researching the Lives of Britain’s Female Offenders

Family History True Crime Social History Women of History

By Barry Godfrey, Lucy Williams
Imprint: Pen & Sword Family History
Pages: 205
ISBN: 9781526718617
Published: 18th June 2018


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Women are among the hardest individuals to trace through the historical record and this is especially true of female offenders who had a vested interest in not wanting to be found. That is why this thought-provoking and accessible handbook by Lucy Williams and Barry Godfrey is of such value. It looks beyond the crimes and the newspaper reports of women criminals in the Victorian era in order to reveal the reality of their personal and penal journeys, and it provides a guide for researchers who are keen to explore this intriguing and neglected subject.

The book is split into three sections. There is an introduction outlining the historical context for the study of female crime and punishment, then a series of real-life case studies which show in a vivid way the complexity of female offenders’ lives and follows them through the penal system. The third section is a detailed guide to archival and online sources that readers can consult in order to explore the life-histories of criminal women.

The result is a rare combination of academic guide and how-to-do-it manual. It introduces readers to the latest research in the field and it gives them all the information they need to carry out their own research.

A well-researched and instructive book, in which the authors share their considerable professional expertise in this fascinating, yet often overlooked, area of research into life in the past. It is easy to follow, with clear explanations and ideas for further study. The title is an essential reference for those who are interested in crime history, as well as providing inspiration for all family historians to look more closely at the experience of lawbreaking women in the past.

WDYTYA?, August 2018 – reviewed by Angela Buckley

About Lucy Williams

Lucy Williams is a researcher with a PhD from the University of Liverpool. She specialises in Crime, Women and Gender, and the Social History of the nineteenth century. She has spent more than five years researching and writing about female deviance. Wayward Women is inspired by her blog of the same name and intended for anyone interested in the history of women and crime.

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