Book of Murder

The Book of Murder was a piece of anti-Poor Law propaganda presented as the work of one pseudonymous "Marcus", originally published in Britain during the 1830s by Joshua Hobson.[1] It aimed to incite opposition to the Poor Law Amendment Act 1834, claiming that Poor Law commissioners were intent on using infanticide to control the explosion in the population of the poor, which had been a fear of the working class since the adoption of the 1834 legislation.

The Poor Law Amendment Act 1834 was an Act of Parliament which altered the nature of poor relief in England and Wales – workhouses were built for paupers to receive indoor relief. The anti-Poor Law campaign alleged these pamphlets were the work of Poor Law Commissioners who were known to hold views on population similar to Thomas Malthus, the anti-Poor Law movement also alleged that copies of the original pamphlet had been suppressed.

One of the first to use the Marcus pamphlet to popularize the idea of a conspiracy against the poor in Radical and Chartist circles was the Reverend Joseph Rayner Stephens, a proponent of violent resistance to the government who made numerous references to the alleged conspiracy while traveling across the country during the period between his December 1838 arrest and 1839 imprisonment.[2]

The book came from two pamphlets by "Marcus" – An Essay of Populousness and On the Possibility of Limiting Populousness, which discussed possible infanticide used to tackle a population explosion and killing by gas. As these pamphlets were published under the name Marcus, the publication of this book is sometimes also referred to as The Marcus Affair.

The books were published by the Chartist leader Feargus O'Connor in the Northern Star.

See also


  1. Bloy, Marjie (16 November 2002). "The Book of Murder". The Victorian Web. Retrieved 4 October 2010.
  2. McDonagh, Josephine (2003). Child Murder and British Culture, 1720–1900. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. ISBN 978-0-521-78193-0. p. 105.

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