Reactions to crime, criminality and class in Hull and East Yorkshire during the interwar period
Borrett, Ashley Ronald
Thesis or dissertation
- © 2018 Ashley Ronald Borrett. All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced without the written permission of the copyright holder.
The interwar years have often been depicted as a period characterised by the consolidation and expansion of more progressive attitudes to crime. Reform and rehabilitation challenged retaliation and retribution for primacy in both criminal justice discourses and practice, while modern, scientific methodologies continued to shape perceptions of, and offer solutions to, a whole range of criminal behaviours. Moreover, crime was rarely politicised and never the issue it would become in the second half of the twentieth century.
However, these are generalisations and offer only a partial account of crime in the interwar years – one that masks potentially divergent responses in towns and cities across the country. The localised characteristics and discretionary nature of criminal justice, and the asymmetrical impact that a range of social, political and economic issues had on attitudes to crime, make it difficult to present an overarching ‘national’ narrative of the period. Instead, more focused studies, which draw out the specificities and complexities of responses at a local level, may be needed. To that end, this study looks at the region of Hull and East Yorkshire, examining and evaluating a range of sources including police files, court records and parliamentary papers, and with a focus on a quantitative and qualitative content analysis of the local press.
Here a more nuanced account is presented, where sustained levels of anxiety about crime drove diverse and at times seemingly incongruous reactions to offending. In this often incoherent collision of ideals, regional exigencies could precipitate calls for more punitive responses to crime and perpetuate certain pejorative conceptualisations of criminality, while at the same time eliciting sympathetic views, supporting notions of reform and the belief in the reclamation of the individual. It is an account that perhaps more aptly reflects the intricacies of what was a diverse period of British history.
- Department of History, The University of Hull
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