‘Race, Racialisation and the Death Penalty in England and Wales, 1900-65’ is an interdisciplinary project at the University of Sussex funded by the Leverhulme Trust (RPG-2016-352). It draws on concepts, methodologies and modes of analysis from both history and criminology to explore the over-representation of black and other minority ethnic (BME) people among those capitally punished in the twentieth century (roughly 5% of civilian executions were BME compared to 0.3% of the British population in 1950).

By examining, as far as possible, all cases of BME individuals sentenced to death in England and Wales 1900-65, the project will explore issues of racial discrimination in relation to capital punishment, including the ways in which prosecutions for murder were in practice made racist. Narratives and stereotypes of racial difference and racialised interpretations of defendant’s behaviour will be explored through critical readings of archival material and newspaper reporting on individual cases. Further, these case studies will be situated within their wider social, cultural and political contexts, including colonialism and postcolonialism, shedding new light on the penal culture of contemporary England and Wales.

The project website and Twitter page will share extracts from the research project including summaries of individual cases. A particular aim is to share some of the lived experiences of BME people sentenced to death between 1900 and 65.