James Pratt and John Smith were the last men to be hanged in England for the crime of sodomy, reported to the authorities by nosy landlords who later petitioned for clemency. Tom Crewe joins Thomas Jones to explain how exceptional – and unexceptional – the case was. They discuss the change in attitudes to the death sentence in this period and the surprising ambivalence many Londoners felt about ‘unnatural crimes’ in the 1830s.

Read anywhere with the London Review of Books app, available now from the App Store for Apple devices, Google Play for Android devices and Amazon for your Kindle Fire.

Sign up to our newsletter

For highlights from the latest issue, our archive and the blog, as well as news, events and exclusive promotions.

Newsletter Preferences