"Deep mystery surrounds the trial of Archibald Bolam": a microhistorical study of a most peculiar case

Rutherford, Helen and Sandford-Couch, Clare (2017) "Deep mystery surrounds the trial of Archibald Bolam": a microhistorical study of a most peculiar case. In: Criminal Heritage: Crime, Fiction, and History, 4th - 5th September 2017, Leeds, UK.

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Connections may be drawn between ‘microhistory’ - which takes a specific focus on a place, person or event to illustrate or explore larger themes - and its possible antecedents in nineteenth-century compilations of crimes, trials and other ‘strange-but-true stories’. These factors make it an appropriate methodology for addressing the case of Archibald Bolam.

On 7th December 1838, Bolam was found unconscious, alongside a dead body, in a burning room at the Savings Bank, Newcastle upon Tyne. Bolam claimed he had been attacked by an intruder, yet the room showed no evidence of a struggle. Bolam’s story was doubted and he was tried for Wilful Murder in Spring of 1839. Bolam’s arrest and trial captured the public imagination; pamphlets were published, and wild speculation in the press led to the editor of a London newspaper being imprisoned and newspaper publishers fined the huge sum of £10,000. Bolam’s case was included as a precedent in legal manuals addressing the role of circumstantial evidence and contempt of court and the highly unusual circumstances in which a trial may be postponed.

Our paper draws on contemporary newspaper accounts and images to explore this peculiar case, which could be mistaken for high Victorian crime fiction.

Item Type: Conference or Workshop Item (Paper)
Subjects: M900 Other in Law
V300 History by topic
Department: Faculties > Business and Law > Northumbria Law School
Related URLs:
Depositing User: Helen Rutherford
Date Deposited: 07 Sep 2017 13:02
Last Modified: 08 Nov 2017 16:22
URI: http://nrl.northumbria.ac.uk/id/eprint/31762

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