Theme four: Law, Crime and History

Within this research theme we incorporate both theoretical and empirical research into the study of socio-legal histories and the evolution of regulatory practice. Analytical comparison of past practice and regulatory structures as set against contemporary phenomena provides rich and multi-faceted opportunities to comprehend our sense of self and place, in turn assisting in the recognition and valuation of shared memory which contributes to building social and cultural sustainability. Appreciation of former responses to problems of the time can inform tangible links to the here and now, sometimes creating a palpable feeling of déjà vu.    

The Law, Crime and History theme is necessarily multi-disciplinary in outlook and remit, and a number of established links exist within and outside of the University across a broad spectrum of social sciences, arts and humanities. Crucially these include the multi-institutional SOLON consortium Promoting Interdisciplinary Studies in Law Crime and History which is headquartered in the Law School at the University including its peer reviewed open access e journal. Work is also being undertaken to pioneer academic research contextualising current initiatives to memorialise, and so valorise, rape survivors in post-conflict communities.

Theme coordinator: Professor Kim Stevenson

Areas of research expertise

  • Legal history
  • Legal philosophy 
  • Constitutional history
  • Socio-legal studies
  • Cultural representations of the lawyer
  • Criminal law
  • Sex and gender
  • Drug regulation
  • Cultural heritage
  • Consumer protection
  • Law and literature
  • Environmental regulation
  • Law and gaming
  • Fisheries


  • Penny Childs – criminal law; sex and gender
  • Hugo de Rijke – legal history; cultural heritage; law and literature
  • Dr John Kirkhope (visiting research fellow) – legal history; constitutional law and history
  • Jason Lowther – cultural heritage; environmental regulation; drug regulation
  • Craig Newbery-Jones – legal history; law and gaming; cultural representations of the lawyer
  • Dr Judith Rowbotham (visiting Professor) – legal history; socio-legal studies; sex and gender
  • Professor Peter Shears – regulatory frameworks for service providers
  • Professor Kim Stevenson – legal history; socio-legal studies; criminal law; sex and gender
  • Michael Williams (visiting research fellow) – cultural heritage; fisheries.

Current and recent projects

Routledge/SOLON Book Series: Explorations in Crime and Criminal Justice Histories
An ongoing book series examining a range of criminal law and criminological phenomena located within an historical context with eight books published to date and four currently in preparation.

Mapping Everyday Crime: Developing a Model Digitised Crime Reconstruction for Plymouth Past
A project to develop and generate digitised interactive imagery to create reconstructed crime cases past to present;  this will provide a model methodology for other studies of provincial towns and cities regionally, nationally and internationally. The project supports work on a digital prototype to expand and develop a film about the management of crime in the Three Towns created for the 2015 ESRC Festival.

Everyday Offending in Plymouth (1880-1920)
This is an interdisciplinary pilot study undertaken by colleagues across the Law School and includes input from history, sociology and geography for a much broader examination of everyday offending, past and present. It will help develop a better understanding of current law-breaking and crime management policies and their origins. This involves the examination of social conditions and the lives and experiences of offenders as well as analysing the role local bodies (such as the police, court missionaries/ probation officers, the courts and the media) play in crime control and moral regulation.


Memorial to Women Raped in Conflict
The project aims to develop an academically robust valorisation of post-conflict rape survivors through the utilisation of effective memorialisation strategies. This includes establishing a digital platform to synthesise existing secondary research and relevant data sources and rehabilitative projects for post-conflict/post-trauma survival.

Constitutional Position of the Duchy of Cornwall
Ongoing work which has examined the curious and arcane impact of the Duchy of Cornwall on English constitutional law and practice. Innovative methodologies and significant impact through media reporting has kept this issue very much in the public sphere.

Plymouth Historic Forts
A project looking at the sustainable re-use of the city’s Victorian fortifications and the role of law in creating and maintaining a cultural value of these monoliths.

Gender Fraud: trans-people and the courts
Research which is considering the role of the criminal law in the lives of trans-gendered individuals, specifically in the context of sexual offences and the potential and apparent inability of the legal system to provide satisfactory resolutions to cases as the law is currently constituted.

Law Group's docudrama to be shown at international film festival

Plymouth Law Group’s docudrama production of ‘How do you fix a town like Plymouth’ based on the story of Plymouth chief Constable Joseph Sowerby 1892-1917 made for the ESRC Festival of Social Science 2018 has been selected to be shown at The Dadasaheb Phalke International Film Festival in Mumbai on 20 February 2019 in the best international documentary category. The Festival honours the lifetime effort of the father of Indian cinema, Dadasaheb Phalke and celebrates independent and small budget film making and creativity. The film was produced and directed by Rob Giles and presented by Professor Kim Stevenson with talking head and acting contributions from staff and students in the school. 

Find out more about the project