Aberrant Accounts: William Dugdale’s Handling of Two Tudor Murders in The Antiquities of Warwickshire
Midland history, Vol. 33, No. 1, Spring (2008)
This article examines two accounts of Tudor domestic murders which appear in The Antiquities of Warwickshire. It explores the sources from which Dugdale derived his accounts and the circumstances in which he wrote the narratives and incorporated them into his text. It shows how these stories had a particular appeal to their author in the aftermath of the king’s execution, since they could be shaped to suggest that crime would eventually be punished. It argues that Dugdale abandoned his usual scholarly standards in order to preserve the providential interpretation of the stories. Yet, since these narratives occur in a scholarly work, they have acquired an authority that they would not have been granted if published in a polemical or sensational context.
In recent years ‘true crime’ literature of the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries has attracted considerable attention from scholars. Murder pamphlets have been studied as a literary and polemical form, while alongside contemporary collections of lurid tales they have enriched our understanding of early modern attitudes to crime and domestic violence.