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|Title:||Death of a Spectacle: The Transition from Public to Private Executions in Colonial Australia|
|School/Discipline:||School of Humanities: History|
|Abstract:||This thesis examines the transition from public to private executions in colonial Australia. It asks why public executions were abolished in the colonies and how the practice of executions was affected by the passage of the legislation. New South Wales (then including modern-day Queensland), Victoria and Van Diemen’s Land all proclaimed their Private Execution Acts in 1855, South Australia did the same in 1858 and Western Australia in 1871. The pace of reform in Australia was early in the context of the British Empire with the United Kingdom stalling for another decade before finally legislating in favour of private hangings in 1868. The transition to private executions in Australia had a short-term trigger with longer-term trends underpinning a desire for change. In New South Wales, the first colony to initiate the reform, the cultural legacy of convictism and the wish to appear ‘civilised’ to the outside world played a decisive role. This sentiment was bolstered by a public execution spectacle that had, for a long time, been the subject of concern across all of the colonies. Colonial elites feared that the women, children and lower class spectators who attended public executions were being ‘demoralised’ by the violence. The publicity of hangings also enticed many criminals into displays of bravado in their final moments, a situation exacerbated by the popular expectation that they ‘die game’. Finally, bungled executions were a common feature of the colonial period and the pain it caused upon the body of the condemned was a sight that frequently distracted from the intended ‘lesson’ of the gallows. The decline of violent, public punishments in the nineteenth century has many comparisons internationally. This thesis engages with the conceptual literature on penal change—the work of Michel Foucault, Marxist scholarship, and the appropriation of Norbert Elias’ ‘Civilizing Process’—but ultimately takes an approach that places great emphasis on the unique historical contingences of Australian settlement. Above all, it takes seriously the wider beliefs and customs of colonial Australians to assess how these cultural factors impacted upon the changing way that executions were carried out.|
|Dissertation Note:||Thesis (Ph.D.) -- University of Adelaide, School of Humanities, 2016|
|Provenance:||This electronic version is made publicly available by the University of Adelaide in accordance with its open access policy for student theses. Copyright in this thesis remains with the author. This thesis may incorporate third party material which has been used by the author pursuant to Fair Dealing exceptions. If you are the owner of any included third party copyright material you wish to be removed from this electronic version, please complete the take down form located at: http://www.adelaide.edu.au/legals|
|Appears in Collections:||Research Theses|
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