BOOKS & DIG­I­TAL PICKS

Who Do You Think You Are? Magazine - - CONTENTS - An­gela Buck­ley writes about Vic­to­rian crime and is the chair of the So­ci­ety of Ge­neal­o­gists

This month’s fam­ily his­tory in­spi­ra­tion

by Lucy Wil­liams and Barry God­frey Pen & Sword, 224 pages, £14.99

Fe­male an­ces­tors can be very dif­fi­cult to re­search, be­cause their his­to­ries of­ten went un­recorded. This is par­tic­u­larly true for women who broke the law. Yet their of­fences not only in­form us about their ex­pe­ri­ences as in­di­vid­u­als, but of­fer valu­able in­sight into life for women in the past. In their indis­pens­able and highly read­able book, crime his­to­ri­ans Dr Lucy Wil­liams and Prof Barry God­frey of­fer guid­ance on how to re­search women’s crimes and find out more about the environment in which they com­mit­ted them. Crim­i­nal Women 1850–

1920 is di­vided into three parts. The open­ing chap­ters ex­plore the con­text in which women turned to crime, in­clud­ing types of of­fences, typ­i­cal pun­ish­ments, their ex­pe­ri­ence of the prison sys­tem, and post-re­lease su­per­vi­sion.

This in­for­ma­tive sec­tion is fol­lowed by 30 case stud­ies of con­victed women. These con­cise life nar­ra­tives pro­vide a range of in­ter­est­ing sto­ries, re­veal­ing pat­terns of crim­i­nal ac­tiv­ity, dif­fer­ing ex­pe­ri­ences of the pe­nal sys­tem and un­der­ly­ing themes par­tic­u­larly rel­e­vant to women such as poverty, in­equal­ity, il­le­git­i­macy and be­reave­ment.

The fi­nal part of­fers clear and com­pre­hen­sive guid­ance on how to re­search fe­male of­fend­ers, cov­er­ing civil and crim­i­nal records, the me­dia and some more un­usual sources, such as prison mu­se­ums. Each key source is fol­lowed by a help­ful eval­u­a­tion of its strengths and lim­i­ta­tions.

Crim­i­nal Women 1850–

1920 is a well-re­searched and in­struc­tive book, in which the au­thors share their con­sid­er­able pro­fes­sional ex­per­tise in this fas­ci­nat­ing, yet of­ten over­looked, area of re­search into life in the past. It is easy to fol­low, with clear ex­pla­na­tions and ideas for fur­ther study. The ti­tle is an es­sen­tial ref­er­ence for those who are in­ter­ested in crime his­tory, as well as pro­vid­ing in­spi­ra­tion for all fam­ily his­to­ri­ans to look more closely at the ex­pe­ri­ence of law­break­ing women in the past.

BOOKS Amelia Sach and An­nie Wal­ters, the Finch­ley Baby Farm­ers, were hanged for mur­der­ing the babies they took

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