"Unsound Empire" by Catherine L. Evans

Unsound Empire Civilization and Madness in Late-Victorian Law Catherine L. Evans

Publication date:
23 Nov 2021
Yale University Press
320 pages: 235 x 156mm
15 b-w illus.
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A study of the internal tensions of British imperial rule told through murder and insanity trials

Unsound Empire analyzes the history of criminal responsibility in the nineteenth-century British Empire through detailed accounts of homicide cases. Catherine Evans explores changing understandings of insanity and their consequences for the principle that only intentional, sane, blameworthy acts deserved punishment. While British common law was flexible, it had a breaking point, and controversies involving responsibility and insanity challenged judges to determine how many of the emerging ideas about criminality, race, ethnology, and the mind the law could accommodate.

Catherine Evans is assistant professor at the Centre for Criminology and Sociolegal Studies at the University of Toronto. Her dissertation won the 2017 Julien Mezey Prize awarded by the Association for the Study of Law, Culture, and the Humanities.

Unsound Empire reconnoitres with late-Victorian jurists and medical men struggling with prisoners too dangerous to release and too mad to hang.  Catherine Evans’s micro-histories are strewn with eccentric characters and thick with tales that sparkle with stunning prose.”—Constance Backhouse, University of Ottawa