Murder by poison in Scotland during the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries

Merry, Karen Jane (2010) Murder by poison in Scotland during the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. PhD thesis, University of Glasgow.

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This thesis examines the history of murder by poison in Scotland during the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, in the context of the development of the law in relation to the sale and regulation of poisons, and the growth of medical jurisprudence and chemical testing for poisons.

The enquiry focuses on six commonly used poisons. Each chapter is followed by a table of cases and appendices on the relative scientific tests and post-mortem appearances. The various difficulties in testing for these poisons in murder and attempted murder during the period are discussed and the verdicts reached by juries in poisoning trials considered.

It is argued that murder by poison during the nineteenth and early twentietrh centuries raised particular legal and medical problems, as not only were symptoms often not recognised by doctors, but chemical testing was inadequate, and juries as arbiters of fact often did not understand the evidence that was presented to them in court during trials for poisoning. Further, the ease with which these poisons could be purchased for very small sums of money, the rise of the insurance industry, and the prominence of burial clubs all contributed to providing opportunity and motive for murder.

Since poisons were easy to obtain and difficult to detect, it seems probable that poisoning was much more common than is usually accepted.

Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
Qualification Level: Doctoral
Keywords: Murder by poison, Scotland, nineteenth century, early twentieth century, law, medical jurisprudence, history forensic medicine, chemical testing, arsenic, corrosive acids, phosphorous, opium, strychnine, prussic acid, juries, criminal trials, poisons legislation, development poisons legislation,children, domestic servants, rats
Subjects: K Law > K Law (General)
H Social Sciences > HN Social history and conditions. Social problems. Social reform
R Medicine > RZ Other systems of medicine
Colleges/Schools: College of Social Sciences > School of Law
Supervisor's Name: Robinson, Professor Olivia
Date of Award: 2010
Depositing User: Ms Karen Merry
Unique ID: glathesis:2010-2225
Copyright: Copyright of this thesis is held by the author.
Date Deposited: 28 Oct 2010
Last Modified: 10 Dec 2012 13:53

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