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Rosalind Crone

I joined the History Department at the Open University in 2009 after three years in the neighbouring English department as a research fellow on an AHRC-funded project, The Reading Experience Database (1450-1945). Before that, I completed my BA (Hons) at the University of Queensland in Australia, and was awarded an MPhil and PhD in history from St John’s College, University of Cambridge. I have also taught modern British social and cultural history at the University of Cambridge.

At the Open University, I am a member of the International Centre for the History of Crime, Policing and Justice, located in the History Department, and also of the International Centre for Comparative Criminological Research. I also remain a member of the project team for the Reading Experience Database

Teaching Interests

Module Teams and Production:

  • A312 Total War and Social Change: Europe 1914-1955
  • A327 Twentieth-Century Europe (in production)
  • A825/6 MA in History

I welcome PhD proposals on crime and justice in the nineteenth century, popular culture, and the history of reading.

Research Interests

Educating Criminals

While working as a research fellow on the Reading Experience Database, I began a new research project combining my continuing interests in crime and working-class culture with a developing interest in the history of reading. For several years, I have been working on the general theme of educating criminals in nineteenth-century England. I am interested in both the acquisition of elementary skills by criminals outside and within the prison walls, and also in the transmission of illicit types of knowledge, for example, skills in the commission of crime. Thus far, I have completed a number of articles and chapters on the literacy rates of prisoners and educational programmes designed to reform offenders, and I am also working on a full-length book treatment of this subject. In April 2012, I was awarded a small grant from the Marc Fitch Fund to use surviving prison records from Suffolk to map the educational experiences of the poor in that county for the seventy years or so prior to the 1870 Education Act.

Violent Entertainments

I have recently completed a monograph derived from my doctoral research on violent entertainments in nineteenth-century London: Violent Victorians: Popular Entertainment in Nineteenth-Century London (Manchester University Press, 2012). This book is the first full-length study to address the wide range of gruesome, bloody and confronting amusements and pastimes, patronised by large numbers of ordinary Londoners, that did not conform to the values of respectability and restraint which we so often claim characterised Victorian culture. While pastimes involving displays of actual violence were brought under control during the early-nineteenth century, graphic, yet orderly, ‘re-enactments’ of high-level violence flourished in street or travelling entertainments, penny broadsides, popular theatres, cheap instalment fiction and Sunday newspapers. By examining these predominantly new amusements in detail, this book explores the ways in which gruesome, bloodthirsty and violent representations provided an outlet, indeed siphoned off, much of the actual violence that had hitherto been expressed in all manner of social and political dealings, thus providing a crucial accompaniment to schemes for the reformation of manners and the taming of the streets, while providing a mechanism through which the common people could ‘protest’ against the values of the establishment.

International Histories of Reading

Between March 2010 and February 2011, I was a Co-I on the AHRC project, ‘Developing an International Digital Network in the History of Reading’ with colleagues in the English department – W.R. Owens and Shafquat Towheed. During this period, the Reading Experience Database (RED) was subjected to major redevelopment: the UK RED website was enhanced, by adding new teaching tools and improving its functionality, in preparation for distribution to colleagues in Australia (Griffith University, Brisbane), Canada (Dalhousie University, Halifax), the Netherlands (Universiteit Utrecht) and New Zealand (Victoria University of Wellington) to allow the creation of other national REDs; and work began on a new international portal housed on the Open University web space to allow simultaneous searching of national REDs in particular fields. For more information, see the RED website.



The Making of the Modern Police, 1780-1914, Volume Four: Policing Entertainment (Pickering & Chatto, forthcoming, 2014).

Violent Victorians: Popular Entertainment in Nineteenth-Century London (Manchester University Press, 2012)
Find out more about this book.
from the Journal of Victorian Culture Online, June 5, 2012
from IHR Reviews in History, June 2012
BBC History Magazine, August 2012
The London Journal, vol 37, November 2012
Times Literary Supplement, 25 January 2013
Urban History, vol 40, February 2013
New Theatre Quarterly, vol 29, February 2013

With Shafquat Towheed, eds. The History of Reading, Volume 3: Methods, Strategies, Tactics (Palgrave, 2011)

With Katie Halsey and Shafquat Towheed, eds., The History of Reading (Routledge Literature Readers, 2010).

With David Gange and Katy Jones, eds. New Perspectives in British Cultural History (Newcastle, Cambridge Scholars Publishing, 2007).


‘The great “Reading” experiment: an examination of the role of education in the nineteenth-century gaol’, Crime, Histoire et Sociétés, 16 (2012), pp. 47-72

‘Reappraising Victorian literacy through prison records’, Journal of Victorian Culture, 15 (2010), pp. 3-37.

‘Murder machines in the mid-nineteenth century metropolis’, Cultural & Social History, 7 (2010), pp. 59-85.

‘Crime – and its fabrication: A review of new digital resources in the history of crime’, Journal of Victorian Culture 14 (2009), pp. 125-133.

‘Comprendre la Grande-Bretagne du xix e  siècle à travers le prisme changeant de l’histoire culturelle (Understanding nineteenth-century Britain through the shifting lenses of cultural history)’, Revue de l’histoire du dixneuvieme siècle, 37 (2008), pp. 37-54.

‘Mr and Mrs Punch in Nineteenth-Century England’, Historical Journal, 49 (4) (2006), pp. 1055-1082.

Chapters in Books:

‘Query: Victorian Reading’ in Matthew Bradley and Juliet John, eds. Reading and the Victorians (forthcoming, Ashgate).

‘Publishing courtroom drama for the masses’ in Michael T. Davis and David Lemmings, eds. Courtrooms and the Public Sphere in Britain, 1730-1840 (forthcoming, Ashgate, 2013).

With Katie Halsey, ‘On collecting, cataloguing and collating the evidence of reading: the “RED” movement and its implications for digital scholarship’, in Toni Weller, ed. History in the Digital Age (Routledge, 2012).

‘Query: Victorian Reading’ in Matthew Bradley and Juliet John, eds. Reading and the Victorians (Ashgate, 2012).

‘What Readers Want: Criminal Intelligence and the Fortunes of the Metropolitan Press during the Long Eighteenth Century’, in Katie Halsey and W.R. Owens, eds., The History of Reading, Vol Two: Evidence from the British Isles (Palgrave, 2011).

‘Attempts to (re)shape common reading habits: Bible reading on the nineteenth-century convict ship’, in Adelene Buckland and Beth Palmer, eds.,   A Return to the Common Reader (Ashgate, 2011).

With Katie Halsey and Shafquat Towheed, ‘Examining the evidence of reading: three examples from the Reading Experience Database’, in Bonnie Gunzenhauser (ed), Reading in History: New Methodologies from the Anglo-American Tradition (Pickering & Chatto, 2010).

‘Cries of murder and sounds of bloodshed: The practice of reading cheap fiction in working-class communities in early Victorian London’, in Crone, Gange and Jones, eds. New Perspectives in British Cultural History (Newcastle, Cambridge Scholars Publishing, 2007).


‘ “Life after death”: Legacies of executed criminals in the nineteenth century’, Curator’s Choice: Selections from the John Johnson Collection of Printed Ephemera (2011) Read this online.

‘Reading (in) the Past, 1450-1945’, English Review (Oct 2009), pp. 24-26.

‘Crime reporting in the nineteenth-century newspaper’, British Library 19th Century Newspapers (British Library, 2009)

‘The Common Reader’, History Today (January 2008), pp. 42-43.

Entries on ‘the popular press’, ‘class and the press’, ‘the Penny Sunday Times and People’s Police Gazette’, ‘the Calendar of Horrors’, ‘Thomas Catling’ and ‘George Purkess’ for the Dictionary of Nineteenth Century Journalism, eds. Laurel Brake and Marysa Demoor (British Library & ProQuest, 2008)

See also Open Research Online for further details of Rosalind Crone’s research publications.

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