‘One of the best fathers until he went out of his mind’: Paternal child-murder, 1864–1900

Shepherd, Jade (2013) ‘One of the best fathers until he went out of his mind’: Paternal child-murder, 1864–1900. Journal of Victorian Culture, 18 (1). pp. 17-35. ISSN 1355-5502

Full content URL: http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/13555502.2012.751045

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Abstract

Current scholarship suggests that when a mother murdered her child in Victorian England she was treated sympathetically by the press and in the courtroom. It is argued that because the crime was considered antithetical to womanhood it was viewed as an indication of insanity. This article examines newspaper reports, trial transcripts, medical literature and popular works on fatherhood, in order to explore the cases of sixty men committed to Broadmoor Criminal Lunatic Asylum between 1864 and 1900 for the murder of their children. It questions two assumptions of the literature on infanticide: first, the idea that it was only women who were thought to be going against nature if they killed their child; and second, that it was only women who regularly successfully pleaded insanity in such cases. The Broadmoor case studies not only demonstrate Victorian attitudes towards paternal child-murder but also provide valuable material illustrating affectionate models of Victorian fatherhood. In trial and press reports detailing the crimes it is clear that fathers were expected, and expected themselves, to be temperate, provide for, and protect their children.

Keywords:Asylums, Broadmoor, Crime, Fatherhood, Infanticide, Insanity, Masculinity, Murder, Trials
Subjects:V Historical and Philosophical studies > V144 Modern History 1800-1899
Divisions:College of Arts > School of History & Heritage > School of History & Heritage (Heritage)
ID Code:24029
Deposited On:09 Sep 2016 09:29

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