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'Ideal home' or 'house of horror'? Domestic murder scenes in post-war London

posted on 2023-06-09, 03:31 authored by Alexa NealeAlexa Neale
This paper uses case files for murder trials at the Old Bailey in the 1950s and 60s to examine the ways in which police, judicial system, and press ‘read’ and represented home spaces that were also scenes of crime. I argue that contemporary imaginings of the ‘ideal home’ influenced recording and interpretation of homes in this period as never before, frequently creating bias against victims and defendants alike who failed to meet or maintain a domestic ideal that was framed as British, private, and increasingly family-centred. Though the science of the crime scene, of forensics and ‘trace’ analysis were developing apace in this period, pushing investigations into the laboratory, these techniques were slow to overtake more established readings of home spaces in cases of domestic murder. Rather I argue that the ways that people lived in their homes and organised them remained key to police in determining a narrative that explained who killed, why, and how criminal or culpable they were. I explore the ways in which police, court and press interpreted and explained the scenes of domestic murders, highlighting evidence of strategies for negotiating comfort, privacy, security and safety, in places inhabited by people for whom the ‘ideal’ of the suburban semi was less accessible.


Publication status

  • Published

Presentation Type

  • paper

Event name

European Social Science History Conference

Event location

University of Valencia, Spain

Event type


Event date

30 March - 02 April 2016

Department affiliated with

  • History Publications

Full text available

  • No

Peer reviewed?

  • No

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