The History of Homicide: Mysteries, Murder and Make-Believe, 1550-Now


Through this great gallery of murder . . .  together let us wander hand in hand

Thomas De Quincey, 1827 

Whether fictional or real, society has a peculiar obsession with homicide, and it is an obsession with a rich history. Beginning with the infamous case of Alice Arden of Faversham in 1550, this one-day event will see students explore the cultural and social history of murder - from genuine cases to fictional representations. 

Over the course of four sessions, we’ll cover early modern homicide cases, evolving definitions of (and punishments for) homicide, the beginnings of crime detection, the so-called ‘golden age’ of murder, and also how literature has worked to shape our understanding of homicide - from moralising early modern pamphlets and Thomas de Quincey’s 'On Murder' to Arthur Conan Doyle and Agatha Christie. Before concluding with a look at modern justice and the popularity of the true crime genre. Have things really changed that much?

Please note: this event will close to enrolments at 23:59 UTC on 22 November 2023.

Programme details

Registration at Rewley House reception (in-person attendees only)

Welcome and introduction
Rebecca Rideal

No-one shall sleep in their own house or bed un-killed: homicide in Early Modern England
Jonathan Healey


Public opinion and policing: murder in the long eighteenth century
Rebecca Rideal


Murder and the music hall
Fern Riddell


Panel discussion: crime literature and modern justice
Rebecca Rideal, Jonathan Healey, Fern Riddell, Harriet Johnson

Course disperses


Description Costs
Course Fee - in-person attendance (includes tea/coffee) £99.00
Course Fee - virtual attendance £90.00
Baguette lunch £6.50
Hot lunch (3 courses) £17.60


If you are in receipt of a UK state benefit or are a full-time student in the UK you may be eligible for a reduction of 50% of tuition fees.

Concessionary fees for short courses


Rebecca Rideal


Rebecca Rideal is a historian, award-winning podcast and TV producer and the author of 1666: Plague, War and Hellfire

Dr Jon Healey


Jonathan Healey is Associate Professor in Social History at Oxford University's Department for Continuing Education. Read Jonathan's staff profile.

Dr Fern Riddell


Fern is a cultural historian, author and broadcaster. She specialises in sex, entertainment and violent women.

Ms Harriet Johnson


Harriet qualified as a barrister in 2010 and practises from Doughty Street Chambers, where she specialises in human rights and criminal law and acts in cases involving the most serious allegations of criminal and civil wrongdoing. She has spoken at legal conferences all over the world, as well as being a frequent media contributor on the subject of law and justice, in particular through the lens of gender. Her first book, Enough: The Violence Against Women and How to End It, published by Harper Collins in 2022, was an Amazon bestseller and was named by Waterstones on their list of the best books of 2022. Harriet is joint chair of the board of trustees of the charity Women In Prison.


Please use the 'Book' button on this page. Alternatively, please contact us to obtain an application form.


Accommodation is not included in the price, but if you wish to stay with us the night before the course, then please contact our Residential Centre.

Accommodation in Rewley House - all bedrooms are modern, comfortably furnished and each room has tea and coffee making facilities, Freeview television, and Free WiFi and private bath or shower rooms.  Please contact our Residential Centre on +44 (0) 1865 270362 or email for details of availability and discounted prices.

IT requirements

For those joining us online

We will be using Zoom for the livestreaming of this course. If you’re attending online, you’ll be able to see and hear the speakers, and to submit questions via the Zoom interface. Joining instructions will be sent out prior to the start date. We recommend that you join the session at least 10-15 minutes prior to the start time – just as you might arrive a bit early at our lecture theatre for an in-person event.

Please note that this course will not be recorded.