Word Crimes: Blasphemy, Culture and Literature in Nineteenth Century England

In 1883 the editor of a penny newspaper stood trial three times for the obsolete crime of blasphemy. The editor was G.W. Foote, the paper was the Freethinker , and the trial was the defining event of the decade. This is a reconstructed account of blasphemy in Victorian England, retelling the forgotten stories of more than 200 working-class blasphemers, such as Foote, whose stubborn refusal to silence their hooligan voices helped secure the present right to speak and write freely, and whose martyrdom transformed blasphemy from a religious offence into a class and cultural crime.