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Historian wins international award

13 November 2014

Garthine Walker

A Cardiff University historian has won a prestigious international award for her ground-breaking work on rape in the early modern period.

Dr Garthine Walker, Reader in History in the School of History, Archaeology & Religion, was awarded the Sutherland Prize for her article, 'Rape, Acquittal and Culpability in Popular Crime Reports in England, c.1670–c.1750', which was published in the professional historical journal Past & Present in 2013.

The prize is awarded annually by the American Society for Legal History for the best article on English legal history published in the previous year.

The winning article shows that early modern people did not explain the high acquittal rate for rape in terms either of women's false accusations or of victim-blaming. On the contrary, judges, jurors and news-writers lamented that many guilty men walked free because the legal criteria for rape were too difficult to meet. This raises important questions about what changed and when, which Dr Walker is exploring further in her current research, in particular the ways in which victim-blaming became a key part of rape trials with the introduction of legal representation for the defence in the late eighteenth century.

On news of the award, announced last weekend at the American Legal History Society's annual meeting in the USA, Dr Walker said: "Given the quality and esteem of former recipients of this award, I feel enormously privileged to have had my work selected by the prize committee as the best article on English legal history. It is an especial honour for a social historian to be awarded such a prestigious legal history prize."

Dr Walker is currently working on a book-length study of Rape in England and Wales, 1500-1800, supported by a Leverhulme Trust Major Research Fellowship.