Research Programs: Fellowships for University Teachers

Period of Performance

9/1/2005 - 6/30/2006

Funding Totals

$40,000.00 (approved)
$40,000.00 (awarded)

Forgery and Capital Punishment in England, 1700-1840

FAIN: FA-51907-05

Randall Eugene McGowen
University of Oregon (Eugene, OR 97403-5219)

I am at work on a book that will use the history of forgery to investigate why England, in the first third of the nineteenth century, ceased to employ the death penalty for serious property offenses. I argue that this under appreciated transition marked an important moment in the reform of the criminal law, and an even more significant chapter in the rise of humanitarian sensibility. Forgery became a capital crime in the early eighteenth century, and it was the principal offense around which the controversy over the gallows took place after 1800. A study of the treatment of the crime thus illustrates changing penal ideas and offers a way of measuring the impact of evolving notions of property.