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‘The place was equipped with the impediments of fetishism and perversion…’: the deviant home in mid-century murder cases

posted on 2023-06-08, 17:44 authored by Alexa NealeAlexa Neale
From a ‘Studies of Home’ perspective which engages with multiple disciplines, this paper reconstructs homes that were scenes of murder and manslaughter from the interwar to the 1960s using photographs, plans, depositions and a variety of ephemera from police and court files. Sources such as these are an unequalled and under-used resource for illuminating the place, space and materiality of home in the twentieth century, being so rich that the crime context could be considered incidental. This paper, however, fully acknowledges the provenance of the documents and argues that the interpretation of domestic crime scenes held greater meaning than merely representing forensic and circumstantial evidence to clear or convict a defendant. Rather, the homes themselves were judged by press, police and criminal justice system, and many were found to be deviant in some way. Not only because of the deviance of residents, or because crimes were committed from or in the home, but also because the home itself deviated from contemporary material or spatial standards, because it visually represented sexually or socially deviant behaviour, or because expected standards of home-making and housewifery were perceived to be lacking. The implications of such interpretations of homes for murder case outcomes are complex, seemingly affecting perceived degrees of blame for victim and guilt for defendant. Rather than seeking to make direct correlations between deviant homes and sentences however, this paper focuses on the ways in which judgements about homes that were the scenes of murder reveal the significance of contemporary domestic standards and changing expectations of how homes ought to look and how people ought to live in them over the mid-twentieth century.


Publication status

  • Published

Presentation Type

  • paper

Event name

Crime and Deviance in 20th Century Britain

Event location

University of Lincoln

Event type


Event date

26-27 June 2014

Department affiliated with

  • History Publications

Full text available

  • No

Peer reviewed?

  • No

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