Murder in the family: representations of gender in the mid-twentieth century

Masters Thesis

Brooke Jones 2022. Murder in the family: representations of gender in the mid-twentieth century. Masters Thesis Canterbury Christ Church University School of Law, Policing and Social Sciences
AuthorsBrooke Jones
TypeMasters Thesis
Qualification nameMSc by Research

This thesis presents findings from a postgraduate research project examining cultural understandings of gender and violence in cases of fatal domestic homicide committed by men across the mid-twentieth century. Representations of gender and violence have been researched extensively, although the mid-twentieth century has been identified as a neglected period. Using a microhistorical approach, this research explores representations of both adult female victims and children alongside familial relationships in various legal documents and media reports relating to six incidents of domestic homicide between 1955 and 1974. The thesis presents themes across three killings where the wife is the only victim, alongside three cases of familicide. All six of the cases selected involved defences focused on the mental health of the male offender. As the twentieth century saw significant cultural, social and legal developments relating to gender relations and understandings of mental health as a mitigation for criminal responsibility (Loughnan, 2012), it creates fertile ground for cultural research. The thesis explores the creation of meanings in relation to the cases across the period, whilst also examining how representations altered when children were also victims. As such it expands on work exploring cultural understandings of gender and familial relationships in the twentieth century (Seal, 2010; Seal and Neale, 2020; Neale, 2020) through a focus on the period up to 1974 and the inclusion of incidents of familicide. The findings presented in this thesis remain consistent through the different periods, with representations of women not fitting into expected gender roles as well as ‘forgotten’ children.

KeywordsFamily; Murder; Gender ; Mid-twentieth century
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Deposited07 Nov 2022
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