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From Sawney Beane to Sweeney Todd: Murder machines in the mid-nineteenth century metropolis

Crone, Rosalind (2010). From Sawney Beane to Sweeney Todd: Murder machines in the mid-nineteenth century metropolis. Cultural and Social History, 7(1) pp. 59–85.

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This article traces the changes and continuities in fictional stories of serial murder in London from the late-seventeenth century to the mid-nineteenth century. In particular, it shows how changes in the primary audience for metropolitan popular culture necessitated dramatic shifts in the tale of serial killing and narratives of violence. Thus, by the nineteenth century, as the lower classes had become the main supporters of both traditional and new genres of entertainment in popular culture, their experience of and fears and anxieties about urban change became intertwined with myths about serial killing and reflected in a new character of the public nightmare, Sweeney Todd, the barber of Fleet Street, who set out to effectively depopulate the capital with his ghastly murder machine.

Item Type: Journal Article
Copyright Holders: 2010 The Social History Society
ISSN: 1478-0038
Keywords: popular culture; nineteenth century; London; violence; Sweeney Todd
Academic Unit/Department: Arts > History
Item ID: 17520
Depositing User: Rosalind Crone
Date Deposited: 17 Jul 2009 09:45
Last Modified: 25 Oct 2012 17:26
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