Research Student Profile – Patrick Low
PhD Student: Patrick Low, Department of Culture (History)
Thesis Title: Privacy, Punishment and the Press: Capital Punishment in the North East of England 1752-1878
The spectre of the scaffold loomed large over c18 and c19th England, but the universality of its reach is the subject of increasing debate. London centric models have dominated our historical understanding and led to dangerous generalising about the presentation, reception and sanguinary nature of state control. In attempting to address this, my research will assess the experience of Capital Punishment in the North East between 1752-1878. It will argue that far from a brutal period of scaffold led-control, the North-East experienced relatively few executions. I am seeking to question the notion of a simple snap transition between public and private execution arguing that in the North East it was the culmination of a slow, steady and sustained move away from the public presentation of execution, differing by region, rather than a simple transition brought about by the 1868 Capital Punishment Act. Finally, by analysing post-death practices on the body of the condemned my research will argue that far from a progressive ‘civilising’ narrative, post 1868, the Capital Punishment Amendment Act was the culmination of a raft of c19th legislation that ushered in a new era of control by the authorities over the body of the condemned both in life and in death. When viewed ‘from below’ post 1868 execution is far from a product of ‘civilising’ and progress, unless the progress is that of state control. In short, my research seeks to locate the North East’s experience of the scaffold; one shamefully absent from our collective understanding.
Key themes/concepts: Victorian culture, Crime, Execution, Surgery, Pseudo-sciences, Foucault, Criminal justice, Punishment.
Low, P. (2015) ‘Capital Punishment, Phrenology and the Press: The Curious Case of the Newcastle Journal and the “Bumpologist” Mayor, John Fife.’ Presented at Research Society for Victorian Periodicals Annual Conference: Life and Death in the 19th Century. University of Ghent, Belgium. 10 – 11 July 2015.
Low, P. (2016 forthcoming) ‘The Discipline of Discipline Itself: Execution in the North East 1868-1878’. Presented at Centre for Nineteenth Century Studies (CNCS) Conference: Victorian Culture and the Origin of Disciplines. University of Durham. 12 March 2016
Low, P. (2016) ‘Social Memory and the Landscape: Tracing Execution in the North East of England’. Presented at CIRCA Arts’ Social Memory and the Landscape Discussion. Northern Centre for Contemporary Art, Sunderland. 23rd January 2016.
Low. P. (2015) ‘Capital Punishment, Phrenology and the Lit and Phil: The Curious Case of Alderman Fife and his “Mental Delusions.” Presented at Medieval & Early Modern Studies’ One Day Symposium: The Archive at the Lit & Phil. 18th February, 2015.
Low, P. (2015) ‘Privacy, Punishment and the Press: Capital Punishment in the North East of England 1752-1878’. Presented at Sunderland University’s History Lab. 12th February, 2015.
Low, P. (2014) Privacy, Punishment and the Press: Capital Punishment in the North East of England 1752-1878. Presented at the Centre for Nineteenth Century Studies, Durham University. 20th November 2014.
3 minute Thesis Competition North East (2015)– Winner of the People’s Choice Award.
Northern Network for Death, Dying and Memory (NDDM)
Pseudo Sciences of the Long Nineteenth Century (Social Media Manager)
British Association for Victorian Studies (BAVS)
Literary and Philosophical Society, Newcastle
Research Society for Victorian Periodicals (RSVP)
Society of Antiquaries, Newcastle (SANT)