Sunday, 31 October 2010

Dying Speeches and Bloody Murders

Today, courtesy of Harvard Law School Library, a Halloween special. Just don't go there if you're squeamish.
"Just as programs are sold at sporting events today, broadsides -- styled at the time as "Last Dying Speeches" or "Bloody Murders" -- were sold to the audiences that gathered to witness public executions in eighteenth- and nineteenth-century Britain. These ephemeral publications were intended for the middle or lower classes, and most sold for a penny or less. Published in British towns and cities by printers who specialized in this type of street literature, a typical example features an illustration (usually of the criminal, the crime scene, or the execution); an account of the crime and (sometimes) the trial; and the purported confession of the criminal, often cautioning the reader in doggerel verse to avoid the fate awaiting the perpetrator.
The Library's collection of more than 500 broadsides is one of the largest recorded and the first to be digitized in its entirety. The examples digitized here span the years 1707 to 1891 and include accounts of executions for such crimes as arson, assault, counterfeiting, horse stealing, murder, rape, robbery, and treason."
The site at includes a search engine. You never know, you may find an ancestor!

1 comment:

JDR said...

Paul Wright sent a comment on this post which I won't post here as it does not refer to the topic. It is a worthwile comment on my DNA article in the Sept/Oct issue of Family Chronicle magazine and I look forward to corresponding with him. Unfortunately the comment did not include an email address. Will he please send his address in a cooment, which will not be posted.