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A Tasmanian Judge Jeffreys? John Lewes Pedder in popular history


Fox, J, A Tasmanian Judge Jeffreys? John Lewes Pedder in popular history, Tasmanian Historical Studies, 19 pp. 87-115. ISSN 1324-048X (2014) [Refereed Article]


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Like Judge Jeffreys of the Bloody Assizes (1685), the ‘hanging judge’ has become a stock character in popular historical imagination. In the late nineteenth century, Tasmania conjured its own Judge Jeffreys in the form of Chief Justice Pedder. As the senior law officer in Van Diemen’s Land during the convict era, Sir John Pedder sentenced over 200 offenders to the gallows. From the 1870s, a series of newspaper ‘histories’ cast Pedder as the island’s hanging judge, and this folk reputation continued to resonate with popular audiences into the twentieth century. By contrast, the chief justice enjoyed a reputation for humanity and compassion during his lifetime. This article traces Pedder’s posthumous construction as a Tasmanian Judge Jeffreys, and argues that its enduring appeal owes more to a compelling literary trope than to the evidence of the colonial archive.

Item Details

Item Type:Refereed Article
Keywords:capital punishment, judicial biography, Tasmania, hanging judge
Research Division:History, Heritage and Archaeology
Research Group:Historical studies
Research Field:Australian history
Objective Division:Expanding Knowledge
Objective Group:Expanding knowledge
Objective Field:Expanding knowledge in history, heritage and archaeology
UTAS Author:Fox, J (Dr Jacqueline Fox)
ID Code:99861
Year Published:2014
Deposited By:School of Humanities
Deposited On:2015-04-13
Last Modified:2015-08-17
Downloads:278 View Download Statistics

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