Title: A Fiery and Furious People
Author: James Sharpe
Publication Date: September 2016
Format: eBook - PDF
Source: ARC via NetGalley
From the tragic tale of
Mary Clifford, whose death at the hands of her employer scandalised
Georgian London, to an account of the violent activities of Victorian
Manchester's scuttling gangs, via a character portrait of the
duel-obsessed Cavalier Sir John Reresby, A Fiery & Furious People
explores the brutal underside of our national life in all its variety.
And as it considers the litany of assaults, murders and riots that
pepper our history, it also traces the subtle shifts that have taken
place both in the nature of violence and in people's attitudes to it.
Why was it, for example, that wife-beating could at once be
simultaneously legal and so frowned upon that persistent offenders might
well end up being ducked in the village pond? When did the serial
killer first make an appearance in the annals of English crime? How
could football be regarded at one moment as a raucous pastime that
should be banned, and the next as a respectable sport that should be
encouraged? What gave rise to particular types of violent criminal –
medieval outlaws, Georgian highwaymen, Victorian garroters – and what
made them dwindle and then vanish?
A Fiery and Furious People was an interesting read. Some chapters caught my attention more than others, and I preferred the information about historical events to that of the more recent past; however, overall it was a very engaging work that considered different elements of violence in their social and historical context. With its clear, readable prose, coupled with excellent detail and notes, this is a work that will appeal to both the casual non-fiction reader and those students of either English history or the history of violence, whether that encompasses criminal law and justice or areas such as highwayman and Victorian crime.