Christopher Hilliard

in The Littlehampton Libels

Published in print June 2017 | ISBN: 9780198799658
Published online June 2017 | e-ISBN: 9780191839849 | DOI:

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  • Modern History (1700 to 1945)
  • Social and Cultural History


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The introduction sketches the basic pattern of the events—a quarrel between neighbours led to a storm of abusive letters, private prosecutions for criminal libel, one of the antagonists going to prison, protesting her innocence, and securing a re-examination of her case, which led to the eventual resolution of the affair, though not before further trials that became media spectacles—and then identifies some of the stakes of the subject matter. The dispute can be explained with the existing historiography of class and gender in interwar Britain, but the oddities of the language in the libellous letters lead to more elusive questions about agency and literacy.

Keywords: literacy; agency; libel; criminal justice; respectability; archive

Chapter.  770 words. 

Subjects: Modern History (1700 to 1945) ; Social and Cultural History

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