Skip to main content

From shame to sympathy: Marking criminals for life

11 June 2019

Historian Dr Emily Cock

New Generation Thinker looks at the way the British State has inflicted facial disfigurement as punishment in first Free Thinking broadcast

Cardiff historian Dr Emily Cock is sharing her research as a New Generation Thinker, exploring changing attitudes towards facial disfigurement from the 17th century to today in the Free Thinking series.

The Leverhulme Research Associate shares the story of Japhet Crook, probably the last person in London to receive facial disfigurement as an official punishment in her first programme on BBC Radio 3.

In the reign of King George II, Japhet Crook had posed as Sir Peter Stranger and forged deeds to an estate to mortgage the property.

“The authorities used a very specific and archaic Elizabethan statute to prosecute him, reflecting the importance placed on forgery in this period” explains Dr Cock.

“Pilloried for an hour, he had his ears cut off and nostrils slit before being jailed for life in 1731. His sentence reflects the disjunction between the type of violence that the state could inflict, and the limiting of it among private citizens.”

Dr Cock is undertaking the three-year Leverhulme Research project Fragile Faces: Disfigurement in Britain and its Colonies (1600–1850), exploring the threat, experience and representation of facial disfigurement in Britain and its colonies in Virginia, Massachusetts and Australia from 1600 to 1850.

Now in its ninth year, the New Generation Thinkers scheme is made possible by the partnership of BBC Radio 3, BBC Arts and the Arts and Humanities Research Council. The selected academics use their airtime to showcase a vibrant mix of research from across the arts and humanities with a view to capturing the public imagination.

The Free Thinking programme featuring Dr Emily Cock airs on BBC Radio 3 on Wednesday 12 June at 10pm.

Share this story