The Invention of Murder, by Judith Flanders, is an extraordinary achievement—an exhaustively researched history of 19th-century Great Britain written with verve. Flanders uses the conceit of murder to immerse the reader in 19th-century legal, cultural, and social history. Her depth of knowledge appears to encompass everything related to every murder during this place and time. As a legal history, the book explains a number of developments in English law. As a cultural history, the book discusses the importance in the early 19th century of broadsides, penny-bloods, illegal penny-gaffs, licensed plays, and newspapers; all centered around murder and mayhem. As a social history, the book gives the reader a deeper understanding of how class affected considerations of crime, victim, and offender. Flanders' research offers nuggets of information, as well as tart observations, on almost every page. The Invention of Murder is a significant addition to British legal history, as well as broader 19th-century British history. Just as importantly, it is an entertaining and informative read.
Michael S. Ariens, The Invention of Murder: How the Victorians Revelled in Death and Detection and Created Modern Crime (book review), 61 Fed. Law. 104 (2014).