Lucy Worsley: A Very British Murder

Who doesn’t love a good murder? Most of Britain does apparently and this preoccupation is not a recent event. TV host and historian Lucy Worsley delivers a fascinating lecture on the subject of murder as entertainment, building on her TV series and book of the same name.

Backed by a Powerpoint, the talk is engaging and informative. Worsley speaks with expertise, charm and wit.

Backed by a Powerpoint, the talk is engaging and informative. Worsley speaks with expertise, charm and wit. She traces the history of the British obsession with crime across the last few centuries, from notable murders like the Radcliffe House Murder, which led to the establishment of the police force in the early 19th Century; the Red Barn Murder, much loved by the players of melodrama theatre; and the Road Hill House murder, which inspired armchair detectives from every corner to come up with their own theories to solve the case.

Emerging from these shocking acts came the discovery that gore sold newspapers and soon an art form developed. Murder inspired theatre, fiction and even collectible ceramics of famous crimes. The birth of the detective novel is generally attributed to ‘The Moonstone’ by Wilkie Collins and the genre has been developing ever since. Worsley enlightens us of the ‘golden age of the detective novel’ in Britain, where female authors dominated the genre with novels often termed ‘cosy’. Post-war, much of the violence disappeared from detective novels. As Worsley says, no one who had lost a son in the war would find the same type of escapism in a violent book as they once had. During the question and answer session at the end of the talk, an audience member asked if Worsley could predict a future for the crime fiction. Her answer, with apology, was that as our lives become increasingly sanitised, it is safe to expect that fiction will become even nastier.

Surprisingly, I had never heard of Lucy Worsley before and was drawn to this talk simply for its subject matter. But I now understand why the room was packed so full; Worsley really does know how to deliver an intriguing topic in an accessible, engaging and often amusing way.  

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An illustrated tour through the dark story of our fascination with murder, with historian Lucy Worsley. Lucy has investigated the history of this very British obsession in a BBC TV series, here she shares its secrets.

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