Violence, Authority, Cultures and Communities in Sussex and Kent c.1690-1760
Poore, Lyndsay Claire
Violence, authority, cultures and communities in Sussex and Kent c.1690-1760 Lyndsay Claire Poore Submitted to the University of Hertfordshire in partial fulfilment of the requirements of the degree of PhD. December 2013 Abstract This thesis deploys both qualitative and quantitative methods to explore the role and meanings of violence within the context of Sussex and Kent in the early part of the eighteenth century. Historians have often approached the topic of violence from the perspective of a history of crime and therefore deviance. The focus has frequently been on measurements of levels and has ignored cultural contexts. In contrast, this research is grounded in experiences of violence demonstrating that it is not a uniform concept and includes a wide variety of behaviours from brawls to murder. By drawing on a range of sources it has been possible to allow the ritual and meaning of violent actions to be explored in detailed context. Quantitative data is taken from the quarter sessions records of both counties and analysed alongside the interpretations of previous historians. This is supplemented with depositions, literature, letters and notebooks to provide a ‘thick description’ of the contexts and circumstances of violence. The experience of violence is explored from a range of angles and at several levels, from anonymous brawls in the street to gang violence to household chastisement, the ritual and meaning of violent actions is investigated in detail. This analysis demonstrates that violence was a subjective concept, dependent on context. No clear definition of violence can be found, instead there are a range of descriptions, portrayals and accounts which all combine to illustrate the plurality of this concept. This thesis concludes that violence was often meaningful and connected with cultural concepts of order, authority and community. It was not random and its purpose can often be found if the signs are read. Evidence for struggles over authority and power can frequently be found as the basis of violent disputes and this can be found at the household, community and county level. This thesis demonstrates how violence was regulated through both formal and informal methods involving concepts of legitimacy and acceptability, as although violence was defined legally the border between legitimate or acceptable and illegitimate and unacceptable was blurred and contested.