Trent English professor Dr. Stephen Brown is studying historical journals and texts that detail the events of the criminal trial for a man named William Brodie. In the late 1700s, Brodie—a man from a family in Edinburgh’s upper society with a good day job—was caught, tried and hanged for serial theft, and inspired the 1886 horror story The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde by Robert Louis Stevenson. But this story is not just about an interesting character. The scale of the trial and resulting texts offer insight into key social and cultural factors emerging during the late 18th century that would catapult Brodie into both fame and infamy.
In the video, Professor Brown explains the thrilling tale told in these hundreds-of-years-old trial journals and the fascinating traits of Brodie’s character. You can also hear Prof. Brown discuss the story of William Brodie and its history in depth on an episode of the History Channel’s podcast, History This Week.