Iredell Lecture 2014

The Iredell Lecture in Law and History 2014

A Lancaster University 50th Anniversary Event

‘Historicising Criminal Responsibility’

Professor Nicola Lacey FBA

Professor of Law, Gender and Social Policy


Friday 28 February 2014, 5:00pm

Frankland Colloquium Room, Faraday Building

Preceded by a reception, 4:15 – 4:55 pm

Lancaster University Law School (Bowland North C Floor)


A public lecture, all welcome

Further details from: Prof. David Sugarman –


Professor Lacey’s wide research interests span criminal law and criminal justice, with a particular focus on comparative and historical scholarship, legal and social theory, feminist analysis of law, law and literature, and biography. Her books include Women, Crime and Character: From Moll Flanders to Tess of the d’Urbervilles (2008); The Prisoners’ Dilemma: Political Economy and Punishment in Contemporary Democracies (2008); A Life of HLA Hart: The Nightmare and the Noble Dream (2004); Reconstructing Criminal Law: Critical Perspectives on Crime and the Criminal Process, third edition with Celia Wells and Oliver Quick (2003); Unspeakable Subjects: Feminist Essays in Legal and Social Theory (1998); with Elizabeth Frazer, The Politics of Community: A Feminist Analysis of the Liberal-Communitarian Debate, (1993); and State Punishment: Political Principles and Community Values, (1988).


An offender’s responsibility for his or her offence is generally regarded as the cornerstone of criminal law’s legitimacy.  Analyses of what responsibility means, entails or requires have accordingly flourished in criminal law scholarship – both in scholarship trained on the doctrines of criminal law, and in that engaged in the jurisprudential or philosophical analysis of legal concepts.  Within this rich seam of scholarship, however, the implications of a historical analysis of the development of ideas and doctrines of responsibility over the long term have been little remarked.  In this lecture, I propose a framework for the understanding of criminal responsibility as located within, and shaped by, broad sets of ideas, institutions and interests.  This framework implies the need for a close study of the historical development of legal ideas, and suggests that both the role and the content of criminal responsibility has shifted markedly, even within a single system – that of England and Wales – over the modern period.

The Iredell Lecture in Law and History

This annual Lecture was established at Lancaster University twenty-three years ago as a result of a substantial bequest from Mr and Mrs Iredell to the Departments of History and Law.  The Lecture Series has attracted a most distinguished group of scholars who have used the platform of the Iredell Lecture to advance the history of law in society.  Previous Iredell Lecturers have included:  Lawrence Stone, John Pocock, Quentin Skinner, Natalie Zemon Davis, Douglas Hay, Olwen Hufton, John Langbein, Sir Hilary Beckles, Morton Horwitz, Rees Davis, David Wilkins, Amanda Vickery and Linda Colley.


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