Category: Speeches, United Kingdom
Early documents relating to events of the past make essential - and fascinating - reading for anyone interested in Scottish history. But these primary sources are often not readily accessible.
Fortunately, many of these rare documents have been published by historical clubs and societies, and are available at the National Library of Scotland.
Just as programs are sold at sporting events today, broadsides -- styled at the time as "Last Dying Speeches" or "Bloody Murders" -- were sold to the audiences that gathered to witness public executions in eighteenth- and nineteenth-century Britain. These ephemeral publications were intended for the middle or lower classes, and most sold for a penny or less. Published in British towns and cities by printers who specialized in this type of street literature, a typical example features an illustration (usually of the criminal, the crime scene, or the execution); an account of the crime and (sometimes) the trial; and the purported confession of the criminal, often cautioning the reader in doggerel verse to avoid the fate awaiting the perpetrator.