Joseph Bouet in the Durham Criminal Court (c.1825-1856): Picturing Nineteenth Century Courtroom Actors. Part 1: Lines of Enquiry

Helen Rutherford*, Clare Sandford-Couch

*Corresponding author for this work

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Between c.1825–1856, a French-born artist, Joseph Bouet, made approximately sixty pencil sketches of legal actors in the courtroom at Durham; including images of judges, lawyers, and defendants. Legal imagery from this period in North East England is rare and our research (presented in two parts) is the first detailed analysis of these sketches by legal scholars. This article introduces our preliminary analysis of Bouet’s sketches. We explore potential theoretical approaches and demonstrate that the images show the law in practice in a specific nineteenth century context. The value of our analysis is in revealing what the images tell us about legal institutions, the people who worked within them and the ‘objects/subjects’ of the law. The study makes an important contribution to socio-legal scholarship in demonstrating the value of such images as an underused source in legal historical research. The sketches are also the subject of a second article, Part 2 which presents three detailed case studies. The articles can be read as separate and independent pieces, but each benefit from being read in conjunction with the other.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)228-253
Number of pages26
JournalLaw and Humanities
Issue number2
Early online date26 Jun 2023
Publication statusPublished - 3 Jul 2023

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