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Crimes and Misdemeanours: Deviance and the Law in Historical Perspective


Inaugural Issue: Volume 1, No 1, April 2007 ISSN 1754-0445


Editorial (below)

Debate Forum: Position Paper 1

We publish the following article in the hope and expectation that it will provoke debate and responses from scholars in a range of fields, including socio-legal history.
If you wish to submit a response, please send it to Kim or Katherine Watson Responses should follow the guidelines laid out in the Notes for Authors.

Lorie Charlesworth: On Historical Contextualisation: Some Critical Socio-Legal Reflections 1-40


Heather Shore: Undiscovered Country: Towards a History of the Criminal 'Underworld' 41-68

David J. Cox, Steve Farrall and Barry Godfrey: Persistent Offenders in the North West of England, 1880-1940: Some Critical Research Questions 69-89



The launch of this peer-reviewed e-journal is the result of two years’ planning, and is an attempt to reflect the fundamental new ideas and directions in three key related areas of scholarship: law (socio-legal studies especially), history (cultural history and the history of social practice essentially) and criminology/social policy. Crimes and Misdemeanours: Deviance and Law in Historical Perspective will  showcase work which confronts and challenges the accepted histories and the implications for past and/or current professional practices  relating to the study of offensive or anti-social behaviour. This initiative is also underpinned by a growing public interest in the wider implications of, and the social and official management of, crime and misdemeanours, or what might be called ‘bad’ behaviour. By this we mean conduct which may constitute a legal offence (civil or criminal), but which is certainly considered by substantial elements in society to be socially offensive. We are also interested in conduct which is labelled illegal or offensive by authority (including the legal process) but which is differently viewed by significant elements in society.

In this way, the journal recognises that public interest in the law and crime is reaching unprecedented levels and aims to reflect this both in content and in the profile of individuals who write for it. Thus our focus ranges widely, in terms of our preparedness to publish thought-provoking work reflecting research, experience and comment in any of these areas. Through this, the journal intends to open up, engage and enliven the study of an area which is of intense academic and public concern. This encompasses the work of academic historians, lawyers, criminologists, sociologists, political scientists, literary scholars and psychologists. It also, very specifically, encourages submissions from practitioners and those engaged in the delivery of services and responses to law, crime and behaviour. Ever mindful of the growth of this area and the duty the journal owes to scholarship and professional practice, this journal especially wants to encourage the work of young scholars either still engaged in doctoral work or beyond, and also of young practitioners seeking to challenge established traditions.

Our objective is to provide a forum where access to ideas and developments is couched in an interdisciplinary context, so though we are happy to publish pieces which will largely appeal to one of the main constituencies identified above (academic or practitioner/ professional elements), we particularly welcome work which is distinctively and intentionally interdisciplinary, either in terms of a subject area (case study), topic or theme which will have a wide interest, or in terms of a range of methodologies used to explore a specific subject area, topic or theme. The reason for invoking the historical dimension explicitly within the title is more methodological than chronological in intent. We have found, in interdisciplinary work linking these fields, that citing a historical dimension provides a basis for wider understanding as well as avoiding present-mindedness. This can lead to short term reactions which misunderstand the actual developments being studied. However, that historical dimension can equally be contemporary in terms of the actual chronology: it is not required that work submitted forgo the experiences of the current generation, mediated through a historical methodology, for instance.

It is, we feel, appropriate that SOLON should be undertaking to fill what we perceive to be a gap in the market: providing a genuinely interdisciplinary journal linking all these fields. There are worthy journals reflecting work which does, in fact, draw on all three – but usually with an appeal to, at most, two of these areas. All too often, historians do not read law journals and vice versa; and criminology and social policy journals, again, do not intersect as much as they might do with reading audiences across all the fields. As our Editorial Board, and our Editorial Advisory Board, underlines, this journal brings together expertise in all areas, providing us with a rigorous background to ensure the scholarly quality of the work we publish, as well as a range of cutting-edge insights. SOLON has sought, through its conferences and its previous collected essay publications, to bring to a wider audience the reflections and ideas from scholars and practitioners in these areas, but the Directors of SOLON felt that the time had come to supplement these forms of interchange with the resources provided by online publication, and free access.

The work of preparing the articles for appearance in the journal is undertaken by the Editorial Board, with the gratefully-acknowledged assistance of the IT Department of the University of Plymouth, where the SOLON website is hosted. One reason for this is that we wished, initially at least and for so long as it is practicable, to guarantee the widest possible exposure for the work in the journal by ensuring free access and download. We make, therefore, no apologies for any copy-editing errors which may have crept in – though we do ask that if any reader spots such, they will inform one of the Editorial Board, so that corrections can be made.  

It is fortuitous – or possibly not, we are open to argument on this point – that the upsurge of interest in the phenomena identified above is occurring simultaneously in law and history – and is beginning to be rekindled (as one article in this first issue demonstrates) in the area of criminology/social policy. Although these disciplines have their own individual insights which the journal seeks to reflect, it is intended that it will specialise in cutting edge work emerging from interdisciplinary or cross-disciplinary approaches whilst always being happy to publish new and challenging work from within these core disciplines. This journal aims to stimulate debate and the interchange of ideas between all interested in these fields through its showcasing of such work. Consequently, we invite substantive responses to the articles published; and particularly those like that of Lorie Charlesworth in this first issue, which are in the Debate Forum section. The intention is to publish responses to this article in the second issue, and possibly – depending on the quality and quantity of the exchange – to extend it into subsequent issues.

Normally, the journal will feature up to four articles (depending on length) per issue. Initially it will be published twice yearly, but if there is sufficient interest (in terms of readership and submissions) we will extent to three issues per year in the following year. Future issues will feature a Work in Progress section, where ideas and concepts, and early stage research, can be rehearsed for feedback and in order to elicit wider expressions of interest from possible collaborators. Book reviews and review essays by young scholars will also be a feature of future issues, starting with a review essay in Issue 2, to be published in October 2007 (in time to accompany the SOLON War Crimes conference).  This first issue features three articles, reflecting the range of core disciplines addressing the concepts encapsulated in the journal title: crimes and misdemeanours. The article by legal academic Lorie Charlesworth is our first Debate Forum contribution – and we look forward to responses to this thought-provoking piece. While addressed mainly to legal scholarship, to persuade them of the values of the historical dimension, it has far wider implications for a range of related disciplines and the methodologies they utilise to address topics in this field. We next are proud to publish an important contribution to the methodology of investigating crime and the so-called ‘underworld’ in its historical context, by historian Heather Shore. Our final contribution in this first issue representing criminology  is by Barry Godfrey, Stephen Farrall and David Cox, addressing the issue of persistent offending via a case study of Crewe from the late nineteenth into the mid twentieth century. While each article addresses topics of particular interest to law, history and criminology, all are also profoundly interdisciplinary in the issues they raise and the methodologies on which they draw to present their reflections and research.

We anticipate that our second issue will showcase a range of articles from our forthcoming SOLON conference on Crime, Violence and Modernity to be held in Rethymnon with the University of Crete, through the efforts of Dr Efi Avdela (of our Editorial Advisory Board) and Dr Shani D’Cruze. It will also include our first conference report, on this conference and its conclusions. Keynote speakers at the conference include Joanna Bourke, Clive Emsley, Jim Sharpe and Martin Weiner.

If we please you, tell others – if we don’t please you, tell us!
The Editorial Board
March 2007





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