Death and ritual on the gallows: Public executions in the Australian penal colonies
Sturma, M. (1995) Death and ritual on the gallows: Public executions in the Australian penal colonies. OMEGA: Journal of Death and Dying, 17 (1). pp. 89-100.
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Of all public rituals in the nineteenth century, hanging was intended to be the most dramatic and didactic. The Australian penal colonies of New South Wales and Tasmania, as receptacles for transported British convicts during the first half of the nineteenth century, provide a rich context for examining public executions. This article explores the interplay between state, church, and judicial system in managing the death ceremony and reinforcing authority. The reactions of victims and witnesses to public executions is also explored, drawing on modern studies of death and the terminally ill. Of central concern is the role of ritual in interpreting and coping with death in the extraordinary circumstances of public hanging.
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