An interdisciplinary review of the crowd at eighteenth century hangings in England
This is an interdisciplinary study of the crowds at eighteenth century hangings in England. The three disciplines involved are sociology, psychology and history. The first two disciplines are combined in the first chapter which provides an overview of psychosocial research on crowd behavior and shows that these theories have evolved from initial theories which hypothesized that an individual loses his autonomy and becomes subject to the collective mind to more recent theories which hypothesize that an individual's behavior in a crowd is consistent with an existing norm which the individual uses as a model for his behavior in that situation. The second chapter provides a historic review of different types of crowds in the eighteenth century and shows that the behavior of individuals in these crowds is consistent with existing norm theories of crowd behavior. The third chapter sets forth the rituals associated with hangings in eighteenth century England which included expectations regarding how the crowd should act or react at a hanging. The fourth chapter reviews the Ordinary's Accounts for 1746-1756. The Ordinary was the prison chaplain for Newgate prison and he published an account of the lives, crimes, and execution of the person just hanged after each hanging. These accounts were reviewed for descriptions of the crowd and its behavior. This review shows that from the Ordinary's perspective the crowd was behaving as expected.