This book is fascinating and well-structured. Don’t let the horrible cover design put you off! There is nothing gratuitously gory or sensationalised about the content. It’s a history of the crime of murder in English law, spanning about 1000 years.
When I saw this book available to borrow from the library, I wasn’t sure about it. I thought that reading about the dreadful ways people have killed each other might be too upsetting. However, I was reassured by the tight focus on the challenges and limitations of law. The author only tells you what you need to know in the context of this. Of course, it was upsetting at times, but it was also enlightening and thought-provoking. The chapters are in roughly chronological order and deal with turning points in English legal history, using a variety of cases – some very well-known, others not so much. The boundary between murder and manslaughter is a theme throughout. Other topics include the plea of insanity, duelling, diminished responsibility, the death penalty, infanticide, provocation and corporate manslaughter. I was very shocked to learn how long it took for the latter to become viable law.
The book includes a glossary of legal terms, an index and a small picture section. I would recommend it to anyone who wants to understand the history of murder in English law. The writing style is accessible and you don’t need to have legal knowledge beforehand.
Published in 2021.