Skip to main content


Published onMay 23, 2022

Law, Crime and History

Volume 10, issue 1 (2022): i-iv

© The Author(s) 2022

ISSN: 2045-9238


Iain Channing

University of Plymouth

Daniel Grey

University of Hertfordshire

Craig Newbery-Jones

University of Exeter

The world is a different place to the one that existed when our last issue of Law, Crime and History was published in 2019. The global pandemic has changed the way we work, the way we socialise and the way we conduct our everyday activities. While many things may seem to be returning to some sort of normality, the reality is that COVID-19 has devastated families and destroyed livelihoods. It has also created further divisions within our society over matters such as the wearing of facemasks, social distancing, and vaccination. The effects of the pandemic will last for years to come and the time we are now living through will undoubtedly be studied by future generations of historians. Major moments in human history are certainly of interest to those who study time; we are interested in the issues of continuity and change, we give meaning to events and we highlight the effects they have on the law, social behaviours, politics, and the economy among others. What we – and our readership - are interested in (as either socio-legal historians, crime historians or historical criminologists) has been repeatedly highlighted over the last two years as we are constantly reminded that we are living through history. Such is the importance of history today that when momentous events happens such as the current global pandemic, we are already looking to the future and forecasting how people will remember the present.

The continuing pandemic has generated interest and significance across the disciplinary interests of this journal. We have witnessed unprecedented legal change that reduced fundamental liberties such as the freedom to use public space unless certain criteria such as essential shopping and daily exercise had been met. Emergency powers have been used to temporarily suspend the liberal democratic order among Western powers across the globe in varying degrees. The continuing threats posed by the virus remind us that similar powers may yet return. These powers have (and potentially will again) not just prescribe how we may use public space, or where we may have to wear a mask, but also dictate which nations we may be allowed to travel to and which ones we may not. The discretionary power of the police in enforcing lockdown regulations has also come under the spotlight highlighting inconsistency in police practice as well as the compliance (and defiance) of people to abide by them.

Specific issues related to crime, deviance and harm that link to the pandemic have also exploded in the public consciousness. The disciplines of criminology and sociology have been presented with a multitude of issues to consider, particularly how power, marginalisation, vulnerability and inequality have been amplified by the pandemic. For instance, the initial reported rise in hate crime towards East Asian communities, the rise in domestic abuse and gender based violence as families were forced to spend more time together under restrictive lockdown conditions, the inequality experienced by people from lower socio-economic backgrounds who have endured lockdown living in small, often overcrowded, spaces with no gardens while others had access to larger homes and private outdoor space as well as sustained incomes with their capacity to work from home. Yet, the narrative that we are all ‘in this together’ has dominated public discourse.

These issues may at first seem contemporary and specific to the COVID experience, but the pandemic has intensified social issues that have a much longer history. For example, during the pandemic issues such as violence against women and black inequality within the criminal justice system have been amplified. Despite lockdown restrictions, protest has continued to highlight social injustice and presented fresh challenges to public order policing operations. In particular, the responses to the Sarah Everard vigil, Black Lives Matter protests, and environmental protests have highlighted continued inconsistency in public order policing but more importantly highlighted issues that transcend the Covid experience and have deeper histories. Our conception of historical time may then adapt to reflect the broader qualities of flow and process that recognise that while events such as the pandemic may have generated larger structural transformations, there are also more intricate historical processes at work that connect the past to the present. We hope that future contributions to this journal will negotiate the relationship between the tenses of past, present and future. The pandemic may only constitute a small slice of time (that is not confounded to history yet) but the social, economic and cultural structures that have facilitated the lived experience are part of a much broader temporal flow. Our recognition of the importance of historical research – especially in the areas of the law, crime, deviance and harm – reflect the connection that it has to both the present and the future.

It is also with one eye on the future that we consider the prospect of Law, Crime and History. This is the first edition hosted on PubPub and we hope this new platform will keep up with the developing needs of researchers as well as provide a platform that continues to make peer reviewed research freely and easily accessible. The options for authors include the ability to link their contributions to their ORCID iD and to their Google Scholar accounts. Furthermore, all previous issues have been moved to the new site – special thanks to Lydia Koehler here for completing this mammoth task and for her wider support in helping create the look of the new platform. We have also collated all of our back issues, which will now be part of the Hein Online database that will make all previous, and any future issues available to an even wider international audience. We also extend our thanks to Rebekah Gregory for her support in achieving this.

So this brings us to our new issue – with exciting and thought provoking articles from John Walliss, Jen Hough and Scarlett Redman, and Roberto Catello. The issue starts with Walliss, Hough and Redman who have highlighted the narratives recorded in the provincial press that related to final words of the condemned before execution. In particular, the article identifies those cases that deviate from the script of the condemned admitting guilt and dying penitent. For those that do die penitent, the authors note the uncertainty over how sincere such religious declarations were and question the extent of the role played by the chaplain in ‘encouraging’ or even ‘scripting’ the words of those that were more ‘unwilling’. Research such as this still connects strongly with the present. For countries that continue to operate capital modes of punishment, the nature of the way that condemned prisoners have faced and continue to face their final moments is still very much an issue in contemporary global research on punishment. Moreover, the following article by Roberto Catello makes explicit the connection between past and present in a debate on the historicist objection to historical criminology. Here Catello offers a bold and provocative argument that counters the proposition ‘that history can serve as an ally in the reform of criminal justice in the present’. In a critical and thought provoking piece, Catello offers a critique on the role of history that will certainly stimulate wider discussions about how the past may speak to the present among historical criminologists. We welcome further pieces in the future that continue this lively debate.

We then move to the section on witness seminars. Here we are very grateful to the work completed in recent years to Dr Michael Kandiah (King's College London), Professor Judith Rowbotham (University of Plymouth) and Professor Kim Stevenson (University of Plymouth). They have been responsible in organising a whole series of witness seminars over a range of different topics over recent years with the affiliation of the ESRC, King’s College London, the University of Plymouth and the research initiative Culture and Heritage Exchange (CHEx) (formally CHITCHAT). These witness seminars that have been organised over the last decade provide a valuable oral history tool for research and teaching. As Judith highlights in one of the witness seminars in this issue, the witness seminars provide important accounts from people that go beyond the official record – it has become a way of recording personal accounts that would otherwise go unheard:

So, the Witness Seminar idea started with an attempt to recover hidden histories in areas like contemporary politics and things like that and that’s where I became conscious of the way in which Witness Seminars are going to be an absolutely invaluable resource for the future.

The seminars published in this issue highlight the theme of dark tourism and have contributions from Chris Wilkes (Bodmin Jail), Ruth Heholt (Falmouth University), Alan Bricknell (Ford Park Cemetery) and business and tourism PhD candidates Andrew Fry and Alex Rowe (University of Plymouth) among others. We hope you find the discussions within these seminars dynamic, engaging and thought provoking.

Finally, we would like to thank all our contributors to this issue as well as our reviewers who – in a time when much of academia was getting to grips with online teaching and adapting to new ways of working during the pandemic – still found the time to provide thoughtful and judicious comments to the papers published here. We hope you enjoy the issue.

No comments here
Why not start the discussion?