Abstract only
Suspicious deaths in London, 1933–53
Author: Amy Helen Bell

Murder Capital is a historical study of suspicious deaths, unexpected deaths whose circumstances required official investigation, in mid-twentieth-century London. Suspicious deaths – murders in the family and by strangers, infanticides and deaths from illegal abortions – reveal moments of personal and communal crisis in the social fabric of the city. The intimate details of these crimes revealed in police investigation files, newspaper reports and crime scene photographs hint at the fears and desires of people in London before, during and after the profound changes brought by the dislocations of the Second World War. By setting the institutional ordering of the city against the hidden intimate spaces where crimes occurred and were discovered, the book presents a new popular history of the city, in which urban space circumscribed the investigation, classification and public perceptions of crime.

Amy Helen Bell

reveal a secretive network operating in the capital, with covert referrals, hidden letters, clandestine visits and private rooms in which the operations took place. Even victims dying in hospital often refused to name their abortionist, leaving the historian the difficult task of interpreting these silences: were such women protecting their abortionists or afraid of criminal prosecution themselves should they recover? The coroners’ reports, police files, newspaper articles and criminal depositions reveal glimpses of the lives of women seeking abortions, of the

in Murder Capital
Abstract only
Amy Helen Bell

Conclusion Instead of portraying a triumphal imperial metropolis or a battered but heroic city under fire, this book has examined the vernacular London, showing aspects of life as it was lived and as it was taken from the early 1930s to the early 1950s. Murder Capital has focused on suspicious deaths – murders in the family or murders by strangers, infanticides and women’s deaths from illegal abortions – as moments of crisis affected by the social fabric of the city and transformed by the damage and dislocation of the Second World War. The intimate details of

in Murder Capital
Amy Helen Bell

6 Suspicious deaths in post-war London, 1945–53 Introduction London emerged in the post-war world as a city of decimated neighbourhoods, rubble and bombed-out houses, and as the lair of petty criminals profiting from the continued scarcity of goods and rationing. Deserters still haunted the capital, and many families were struggling with post-war reunions and the lingering effects of separation.1 The rate of indictable crime rose from a wartime low of 91,200 in 1943 to a 1945 total of 128,954 crimes, of which only 25% were cleared up.2 Most of these were property

in Murder Capital
Amy Helen Bell

evidence. The cases of infanticide found in the Metropolitan Register of Deaths by Violence offer glimpses of the women who killed their infants and babies, and shift our understanding of infanticide as a crime primarily committed by single desperate women acting alone, to one also committed by women in relationships, and with help from others. Bell Murder Capital.indd 140 8/5/2014 1:52:18 PM Infanticide in London, 1933–53  141 Infanticide and the law The killing of infants was, from the earliest English laws, associated with illegitimacy. The first laws against

in Murder Capital
Abstract only
Amy Helen Bell

Introduction London: murder capital Since the seventeenth century, the city of London has evoked images of crime and disorder in the popular imagination.1 Murder Capital will examine a twentieth-century London, one both real and imagined, as the site for the commission, investigation and popular perceptions of suspicious deaths, or unexpected deaths whose circumstances required further investigation. Suspicious deaths reveal moments of personal and communal crisis in which individual impulses and social pressures converged in a moment of irrevocable violence

in Murder Capital
Amy Helen Bell

Home Office, ushering in a new era in crime investigation in the capital. London crime in the early twentieth century London in the 1930s was still marked by the traumatic effects of the First World War of 1914–18. The First World War foreshadowed the material and imaginative transformations in London which would Bell Murder Capital.indd 27 8/5/2014 1:52:13 PM 28  Murder Capital follow the Second World War.2 Over 124,000 Londoners were killed in combat, corresponding to 10% of men in their twenties and thirties.3 The German air attacks on London between May 1915

in Murder Capital
Amy Helen Bell

during the war. The highest number of deaths by violence in the Metropolitan Police Register occurred in 1945, with sixty-six recorded suspicious deaths. The increase in deaths by violence was echoed in figures for all forms of criminal violence, including the near-doubling of numbers of felonious and malicious woundings from 1939 to 1945.1 Bell Murder Capital.indd 86 8/5/2014 1:52:16 PM Suspicious deaths and strangers in wartime London, 1939–45  87 The increase in casual and professional violence during the war was cause for public concern, more so than domestic

in Murder Capital
Amy Helen Bell

survival coloured attitudes towards wartime suspicious deaths. Londoners expressed their ambivalent attitudes in their personal writings, as they discussed murder trials with a combination of apathy and anxiety. Commentators either downplayed single murders in the face of wartime mass deaths or worried that the atmosphere of violence was encouraging people to kill. Strict censorship of the press and personal correspondence Bell Murder Capital.indd 59 8/5/2014 1:52:15 PM 60  Murder Capital limited the expression of these fears to personal diaries, archived or published

in Murder Capital
P&O to 1840
Freda Harcourt

than concentrated in Belfast as happened later. As prices rose in the last quarter of the century, and especially during the Napoleonic Wars when the peak of prosperity was reached, capital accumulation went on apace. 4 Though dependent to a large extent on the English economy, the importance of the Atlantic trade gave Irish entrepreneurs familiarity with distant markets and incidentally

in Flagships of imperialism