Capital Crimes: Seven Centuries of London Life and Murder

Written by Max Décharné
Review by Doug Kemp

London, as one of the world’s principal cities for many years, has been the focus for incalculable crimes and misdemeanours, and the setting for human behaviour in all its depravity and cruelty. The author takes a number of murders and killings in London, known as capital crimes, i.e., which attracted the death penalty, from 1380 onwards. Each case is discussed in some detail, using contemporary sources wherever possible. This is interesting in itself, but with the accompanying analysis of London’s changing historical topography as well as the developments in society and society’s attitudes towards crime and punishment, each chapter is an absorbing read. The narratives are expertly written, informative, accessible and yet engaging.