Thursday 29 November 2018

Clive Emsley Prize Winner 2018

Angela Sutton-Vane wins at BCHS2018

The British Crime Historians Symposium is a biennial conference that has become one of the most significant events for Historical Criminologists in the UK with its focus on all aspects of the history of crime, law, justice, punishment and social regulation. In 2018 it was held at Edge Hill University and nominations were invited for the Clive Emsley Prize for the best postgraduate paper presented there.

In November 2018, organisers Alyson Brown and Alana Barton were pleased to announce that the prize had been awarded to Angela Sutton-Vane of the Open University for her paper titled ‘The private life of CID paperwork: the transition of murder files from institutional to public records’. See below for the paper abstract. More about Angela’s research can be found on her website at

Were you at BCHS2018? Feel free to carry on the conversation about Angela's paper using the comments below.

Abstract: ‘There are a handful of cultural and historical studies of the British detective such as Haia Shpayer-Makov and Clive Emsley’s 2006 edited book and Dick Hobbs’ 1998 anthropological study.  Although some research has included the attitude of police to paperwork, work around the personal relationships between detectives, their bureaucracies and the paperwork they produce are lacking.  Often viewed with suspicion both from within their own institution and the public, and periodically entangled in moral crises, C.I.D. have pushing at their door an insatiable demand for access to their world.  The availability of records for research forms the crux of the historian’s ability to understand the detective and yet the growing legalisation of the police record has resulted in decreasing quantities appearing in the public domain.   As such my research sits at the historical coal-face and referring to material culture, specifically object biographies, the murder file has been identified as an exemplar in that it forms the apex of police work.  Its life, liminality and protean nature will be traced as it moves through changing fields of cultural and legal meanings involving control of information, institutional and personal pride, resistance to regulation, memory, memorialisation of the victims and notoriety.  These complex biographies have meant that murder files often moved into unregulated territory and, during a brief period of time, were appearing in local archives creating whole new sets of ethical dilemmas around access and interpretation. Ultimately, by better understanding the transition of the murder file from institutional to public record, research aims to re-open the debate around the wider issue of the preservation of criminal justice history.’

A black and white group portrait of 20 Victorian police constables in uniform, standing in a line in the middle of a grassy area, with a hedgerow and church tower in the background.
Bury St Edmunds Police ca. 1900 via Wikimedia Commons attributed to Bury Past and Present Society, Spanton-Jarman Collection


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