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Crime, Punishment and Media 1500 - 1800 (HIST30073)

Undergraduate level 3Points: 12.5On Campus (Parkville)

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Year of offer2019
Subject levelUndergraduate Level 3
Subject codeHIST30073
Semester 2
FeesSubject EFTSL, Level, Discipline & Census Date

In this subject students will examine the social and cultural dimensions of law, crime and punishment in early modern Europe. The early modern period is usually characterized as a period of spectacular displays of punishment, but to understand this brutality we need to be aware of the social and communal nature of the penal system. This subject therefore examines the ways in which the developing news media disseminated information about crime and punishment to the public. Students will explore how crime, criminals and the legal system were represented in popular and official texts and how the public perception of crime was developed and manipulated. They will think about the ways in which the official reports of crimes diverged from the public perception of those crimes, and how the voice of the prisoner was reported and exploited. The subject covers the various methods and degrees of punishment, including judicial torture, and how these changed from one region to another and over time. As well as exploring the various kinds of offences that were considered to be serious crimes in early modern Europe, the subject looks at the complex ways in which religion and politics were interwoven in the early modern period, and the role played by shame and dishonour in the penal process. Students will also explore the topics of orality and print culture, the sensationalism and commercialization of news, and the representation of gender and social class, by taking advantage of a range of early modern digital humanities projects.

Intended learning outcomes

Upon successful completion of the subject, students should:

  • have familiarity with the history of, and major developments in, crime and punishment in early modern Europe
  • be able to reflect critically on the interplay between crime, punishment and the portrayal of these phenomena in the burgeoning news media
  • be able to evaluate and utilise primary and secondary sources
  • be able to apply research skills using printed and electronic sources in preparation of a research essay and reflective essay
  • have developed skills in public presentations and confidence in self expression through seminar presentations and in-class discussions

Last updated: 21 September 2019