Acts of the “Most Sanguinary Rage”: Spousal Murder in Montreal, 1825-1850

This study examines the 11 cases of wife murder (uxoricide) and 3 cases of husband murder (mariticide) identified in the judicial district of Montreal between 1825-1850, a period of considerable social flux.Through examination of judicial archives and primary sources, supplemented by comprehensive review of period newspapers, these cases allow us to examine the dynamics and causes that motivated spousal murders and offer insight into the motivations, means, and mechanics of investigation and prosecution of these crimes as well as the role of mercy and executive clemency. In so doing, it contributes to our understanding of family violence and the administration of criminal justice for an under-examined period in Canadian history. These gendered crimes reflect “traditional” male attempts to exert and maintain power dynamics and privilege through the use of ongoing violence, rather than the influence of romantic ideals and sexual jealousy reflected in other jurisdictions of the period, and rarely involved premeditated murder. Wives, in contrast, had motives that were altogether murkier, but their actions suggested they acted opportunistically to achieve their desired ends. Whatever the reasons that motivated them, these cases were set against a deeply-gendered backdrop of juridical processes and media coverage that reinforced traditional notions of gender and social mores, and in which the identity of female offenders and victims receded almost to the point of invisibility.

Article available at: https://academic.oup.com/ajlh/article/57/3/316/4037441/Acts-of-the-Most-Sanguinary-Rage-Spousal-Murder-in?guestAccessKey=7264273c-1235-48d1-9385-df95e935527c


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