200 Years of British Murder


Murder has been an essential part of world literature since its beginnings. In this course we will study a third selection of important British crime novels (1818: Frankenstein; 1868: The Moonstone; 1911: The Innocence of Father Brown; 1938: Rebecca; and 2018: Close to Home) to find what they have in common and what each has that is distinctive. We should discover much more about the history of crime fiction in English, its varieties, and the way a book is constructed. Students are asked to read the five books before the course begins. We will look for links to contemporary crime fiction and students are invited to bring their own linked reading discoveries to the group.

Programme details

Seminars meet each weekday morning, with afternoons free for course-related field trips, individual study, or exploring the many places of interest in and around the city.

Please note that OUDCE reserves the right to alter course content and/or cancel field trips in accordance with government guidance.

In our initial discussion we will consider what makes a good crime story and what we expect from one. Then we discuss Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein from 1818 which, despite popular film and comic versions, is a very interesting and disturbing book: a story of pursuit and crime, as well as a social and psychological study.

The Moonstone by Wilkie Collins is one of the most famous of the Sensation novels of the 1860s and is often called the first detective story. In it Collins experiments with ways of telling a mystery without cheating the reader.

A new century brings us to The Innocence of Father Brown by G K Chesterton. Father Brown is overshadowed by his predecessor, Sherlock Holmes, but has a claim to be the greater. We look in detail at a few of the stories and consider the short story’s advantages and disadvantages.

Rebecca by Daphne du Maurier was published in 1938 and its first sentence is famous. The book is a gothic horror with one killing and an attempted killing in a very evocative English setting.

We jump to the present day with Cara Hunter’s Close to Home. This is the first of a well-plotted police series that surprises with its twists and which mixes straight narrative with reports, social media etc and which is set in a mainly recognisable real Oxford. Cara hopes to join us for part of the morning. We finish with a review of the week and participants recommendations of books from their own countries.


Description Costs
Fee option 1 (single en suite accom and meals) £1565.00
Fee option 2 (single standard accom and meals) £1380.00
Fee option 3 (twin en suite accom and meals) £1472.50
Fee option 4 (double en suite accom and meals) £1472.50
Fee option 5 (twin set standard accom and meals) £1380.00
Fee option 6 (no accom; incl lunch and dinner) £1070.00


All fees are charged on a per week, per person basis.

Please be aware that all payments (and refunds) are subject to exchange rates at the time of processing.

Payment terms

  • If enrolling online: full payment by credit/debit card at the time of booking
  • If submitting an application form: full payment online by credit/debit card or via bank transfer within 30 days of invoice date

Cancellations and refunds

Participants who wish to cancel must inform the Programme Administrator in writing: by email to oxfordexperience@conted.ox.ac.uk or by post to The Oxford Experience, OUDCE, 1 Wellington Square, OXFORD, OX1 2JA, UK.

The following cancellation and refund policy applies in all cases:

  • Cancellation within 14 days of online enrolment / payment of fees – full refund of all fees paid

  • Cancellations received up to and including 30 April 2021 – OUDCE will retain an administration fee of £100 per week booked; all other fees paid will be refunded.
  • Cancellations received between 1-31 May 2021 – OUDCE will retain 60% of the fees paid; the remaining 40% of fees paid will be refunded.
  • Cancellations received on and after 1 June 2021 - no refunds will be made.

Important note: You need to take out travel insurance to cover the programme fee and travel costs.


Mr Michael Harrison

Michael Harrison is a professional writer who has published over fifty books, including anthologies, poetry, and crime novels for children, and literary guide books and short stories for adults. He has taught over 20 Oxford Experience courses as well as other adult literature classes.

Teaching methods

Participants will be taught in seminar groups of up to 12 people. Elements of this teaching will normally include mini lectures and presentations by tutors and tutor-led class discussions.

Assessment methods

There are no assessments for this course.


Registration closes on 1 May 2021.

Please note: most courses fill up fast so early registration is strongly recommended.

Single accommodation and non-residential places may be booked online by clicking on the “Book now” button in the “Course details” box at the top right-hand side of the course page.

If you experience any difficulties enrolling online please contact the Programme Administrator at oxfordexperience@conted.ox.ac.uk

Those requiring twin or double accommodation should complete an application form as these rooms cannot be booked online. Completed forms should be sent:


During your course, you will stay in typical Oxford student accommodation at Christ Church in buildings which range from the 18th to the 20th century.

Participants should note that bedrooms are modestly-furnished, do not have air-conditioning and are arranged on a staircase of four or five floors.

The following types of accommodation are available:

  • Single en suite

  • Single standard

  • Twin en suite

  • Double en suite

  • Standard ‘twin set’

En suite rooms include private bathroom facilities (shower, washbasin and toilet). Standard rooms have their own washbasin and shaver point but bathroom facilities are shared. ‘Twin sets’ comprise two single rooms opening off a sitting room.

Please note that only single accommodation may be booked online; those requiring twin or double accommodation should complete an application form. (See “Application”.)

Please indicate your accommodation preferences (either online or on your application form), together with a note of any mobility problems.

We regret that we are unable to offer you accommodation at Christ Church prior to or following your course. Additionally, family or friends who are not enrolled in the programme cannot be accommodated in college.

We also offer places on a non-residential basis whereby participants can take classes and have meals (lunch and dinner) at the college, having arranged their own accommodation elsewhere.