Wretched men on the fatal tree: emotions, masculinity and crime in England, 1800-1868

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Master of Arts
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Martinka, Rebeka

Modes of ideal masculinity were highly contradictory in nineteenth-century Britain. As middle-class Evangelical values became dominant in society, domesticity’s increasing importance gave rise to new, pacific models of manliness. Older, martial modes of masculinity continued to hold relevance as well and were particularly important in homosocial spaces and military engagements. These coexistent and contradictory ideals caused immense difficulty for men’s ability to conform to the emotional regime of the time and could result in their engagement in criminal activities.

This thesis uses execution broadsides to examine the emotional regimes, styles, communities, practices and performances that affected men’s lives between 1800 and 1868 in England. Although both emotions history and gender studies are well-established fields, historians have yet to examine the emotional lives of men in the nineteenth century in any great detail. This thesis is situated at the intersection of men’s studies, the history of emotions, and the history of crime in order to begin filling that gap by focusing on the representation of male convicts who received death sentences. It examines broadsides about domestic violence and the murder of women and children in domestic settings in order to highlight how significantly the emotional practices and styles of lower- and upper-class men could differ from the emotional regime of pacific masculinity. It also analyses cases concerning soldiers and landowners to illustrate the challenges faced by men belonging to emotional communities that encouraged and accepted excessive forms of martial masculine values such as overt aggression and drinking. And finally, it focuses on broadsides about the execution of lower-class men for property crimes, forgery and assault to demonstrate the restrictive nature of the emotional regimes of both pacific and martial masculinity for a group that altered their emotional styles and communities to respond to their everyday realities in a more flexible and opportunistic way.

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