Six Level 5 English students have written a series of blog posts about crime and punishment in Victorian Liverpool for the Journal of Victorian Culture Online, the blog for the respected Journal of Victorian Culture.
As part of the second year English module, Prison Voices: Crime, Conviction and Confession 1700-1900, students took to the city’s streets to explore the spaces of Victorian crime and punishment. The module, which is led by Dr Helen Rogers, explores both real and imagined prison voices investigating, for example, Charles Dickens’ Great Expectations (1861) alongside the criminal confessions and historical debates about confinement that Dickens drew upon.
Zoë Alker, an LJMU doctoral student whose thesis examines violent street robbery in mid-Victorian Liverpool, was asked to run three sessions related to her research and decided to organise field trips to the places that featured so heavily in her case studies: the nineteenth-century Assize court in St George’s Hall, and the former bridewell on Argyle Street.
During these sessions, students investigated themes related to Victorian street robberies, such as the performative nature of the streets and courts alongside an examination of particular cases and local policing strategies. Students analysed a variety of source material including the writings of Hugh Shimmin, a journalist and social commentator who followed Liverpool’s police force through the city slums on the Saturday night to Sunday morning shift in 1857.
Zoë Alker said:
“The sessions were really productive in prompting students to envision the city’s Victorian landscape. The students produced excellent research for their blogs and Helen and I are extremely proud of their work. We are looking forward to seeing them develop the themes of their blogs for the module’s final assessment which asks them to create a research proposal. We would like to thank Julia Carder and Steve Binns at St George’s Hall and the staff at Liverpool One Bridewell for their help in running the sessions.”
Student blogger, Beth McConnell, added:
“It was a great experience for me to not only read about the fascinating history about the city I was born in, but to also visit the historic locations made the project even more enjoyable.”
The blog can be read here: Walking the Streets of Crime and Punishment
Visit the student blogs:
- Megan Ainsworth: ‘Caught at Last’: The criminalisation of men in nineteenth-century Liverpool
- Sam Bennett: Researching nineteenth-century prison graffiti
- Riain Egan: A brief history of St George’s Hall
- Beth McConnell: Argyle Street Bridewell: Walking the beat with Liverpool’s nineteenth–century police force
- Sean McConnell: Interpreting the Victorian courtroom
- Kieran Southern: Researching ‘the terrors of their neighbourhood’: Street robbery in Chisenhale Street