Publicizing Private Life: Criminal Conversation Trials in Eighteenth-Century Britain
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The project examines the gender relationships within the household, between master and mistress, master and servant, and within the servants’ quarters, alongside gendered experiences in the courtroom and constructions of masculine and feminine identities in printed trial accounts, and how these changed during the century. The trials also provided a context in which the spatial boundaries between the private and public could be debated and therefore offer a unique window for examining the physical development of private space in contemporary architecture. The legal procedure of the trials and the published accounts reporting them indicate a growing awareness of a “private life,” while the expanding print culture offered a perfect medium to maximize the publicizing of private life already unfolding in the court room. Crim. con. trials and the literature they inspired, therefore, represent a particularly rich set of sources for considering definitions of “public” and “private” in eighteenth-century Britain.