"Monstrous and indefensible"? Newspaper accounts of sexual assaults on children in nineteenth-century England and Wales
Popular crime reportage of sexual violence has a long history in England. Despite the fact that from the 1830s onwards newspapers and periodicals – and sometimes even law reports – were increasingly liable to skim over the reporting of sexual offences as ‘unfit for publication’, this does not mean that such reportage vanished entirely. Instead, certain linguistic codes and euphemisms were invoked to maintain a respectable discourse. Given the serious problems with gaps in the surviving archival record for modern criminal justice, newspapers remain an essential tool for understanding the history of sexual violence in nineteenth century England and Wales. Using keyword searches in digitized newspaper databases such as the British Newspaper Archive and Welsh Newspapers Database, this chapter examines the continuities and changes in the reporting of sexual violence against children between 1800 and 1900, and explores what these euphemisms and elisions reveal about attitudes to gender and crime in nineteenth-century England and Wales.