CFP. A Civilizing Moment? Reflecting on 150 years since the abolition of public execution

6th June 2018

Literary & Philosophical Society, Newcastle.



Dr. James Gregory (University of Plymouth)

Dr. Lizzie Seal (University of Sussex)


On the 29th May 1868, the Capital Punishment Amendment Act received Royal Assent, bringing an end to centuries of execution in public. Of the Act itself V.A.C. Gatrell posited that, “we cannot deny that 1868 was a civilizing moment in British History”. He went on to state that “none of this, however, means that 1868 marks a humane moment in British history.” Indeed, execution continued unabated for another century and restricted from view to all but a few select representatives of authority. 150 years on from the Act’s introduction, this one-day conference will reflect on this landmark legislation’s origins, intentions, reception and reality.

The organisers are keen to encourage interdisciplinary insights as well as welcoming scholars from any stage in their career and are interested in attracting a wide range of papers both prior to and in the aftermath of the Act itself. Subjects for papers may include, but are by no means limited to

• The legislative build up to the 1868 Act

• The effect of the 1868 Act and its aftermath

• The broader changing nature of punishment

• Media representations of executions

• Individual cases and crimes

• The role of the execution crowd

• The wider impact and awareness of public executions

• Capital Punishment in the arts – including visual, design, performance, media, music and literary genres.

• The science of punishment

• Global perspectives on capital punishment.

For individual paper submissions please submit an abstract of no more than 250 words, accompanied by a brief biography. For panel and roundtable proposals, an abstract of 500 words including a synopsis of the panel and short biographies for each speaker. Send all submissions to deadline for panel and individual paper proposals will be 28th February 2018. The organisers intend to publish an edited collection based upon this conference to which attendees will be encouraged to submit their papers. For more information visit the conference website at

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