Facts Relating to the Punishment of Death in the Metropolis

Description

The modern idea of a police force came about in 1829. The Metropolitan Police were formed in London under the direction of Home Secretary, later Prime Minister, Robert Peel (1788-1850). As the police got to work, attitudes to the role of prisons and the death penalty began to change. In 1831, Edward Gibbon Wakefield (1796-1862) published this work. Born into wealth and marrying wealthier, he had spent three years in Newgate Prison in London for his role in abducting a 15-year-old girl to France. The book is the result of his personal insights, after many conversations with criminals of all types, into the prison system and its effects. 

Wakefield – later a successful politician and colonialist – argued, to put it in modern terms, that the justice system of the day needed fundamental reform: that prisons served as little more than colleges of crime, and that public hangings, far from deterring, merely glamourised criminality. Charles Dickens (1812-1870) owned a copy of the book, and quoted from it in his writing.

Full title:
Facts Relating to the Punishment of Death in the Metropolis
Published:
1831, London
Format:
Book
Creator:
Edward Gibbon Wakefield
Usage terms
Public Domain
Held by
British Library
Shelfmark:
1129.a.14.

Full catalogue details

Related articles

Crime in Great Expectations

Article by:
John Mullan
Themes:
Crime and crime fiction, The novel 1832–1880

Crime exists as a powerful psychological force throughout Dickens’s Great Expectations. Professor John Mullan examines the complicated criminal web in which the novel’s protagonist, Pip, finds himself caught.

The creation of the police and the rise of detective fiction

Article by:
Judith Flanders
Theme:
Crime and crime fiction

Judith Flanders explores how the creation of a unified Metropolitan Police force in 1829 led to the birth of the fictional detective.

Crime in Oliver Twist

Article by:
Philip Horne
Themes:
The novel 1832–1880, Crime and crime fiction, London

Dickens's Oliver Twist depicts the excitement as well as the danger surrounding the criminal underworld. Here Professor Philip Horne examines how Dickens’s portrayal of crime was influenced by public executions, contemporary criminal slang and other sensational literary works.

Related collection items

Related works

Oliver Twist

Created by: Charles Dickens

Charles Dickens’s (1812-1870) second novel, originally published in serial parts 1837-39, and as a three ...