Alana Piper is a Chancellors Postdoctoral Research Fellow at the Australian Centre for Public history at UTS. Her current project (2018-) uses digital history to chart the lives and criminal careers of Australian offenders across the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. Her research interests draw together the social and cultural history of crime with gender history, legal history and the digital humanities.
Alana received her Ph.D. in history from the University of Queensland in 2014 for a thesis examining female involvement in Australian criminal subcultures across the late nineteenth and early twentieth century. Between 2014 and 2018, Alana was a Postdoctoral Research Fellow on the ARC Laureate Fellowship project, The Prosecution Project, a digital humanities initiative that looked at the history of the criminal trial in Australia.
Alana has published widely in prestigious international journals, including the Journal of Interdisciplinary History, Women’s History Review, Journal of Social History, Cultural and Social History, History Workshop Journal, Law & History Review and Journal of Legal History. The interdisciplinary nature of her work means her research has also appeared in forums such as the Australian and New Zealand Journal of Criminology, UNSW Law Journal and Criminal Law Journal.
Alana is also founder and managing co-editor of the Australian Women’s History Network blog VIDA.
- John Barrett Award, highly commended, 2016.
- Mary Bennett Prize, highly commended, 2016.
- John Barrett Award, winner - postgraduate category, 2011.
- University Medal recipient, University of Queensland, 2010.
- Denis J. Murphy scholarship, University of Queensland, 2008.
Can supervise: YES
Female offenders; thieves; criminal careers; crime and identity; crime in cultural discourse.
54001 Digital Literacies
54002 Communicating Difference
54098 Becoming Australia
55993 Honours Research Methods
55996 Honours Culture and Creativity
Piper, A & Stevenson, A 2019, Gender Violence in Australia: Historical Perspectives, Monash University Publishing, Clayton, Victoria.
Alana, P 2016, Brisbane Diseased Contagions, Cures and Controversy, Boolarong Press and Brisbane History Group.
This volume of fourteen papers explores the fascinating history of disease in Brisbane and its surrounds.
Piper, AJ 2020, ''I Was a Man of Honour': Masculinities and Theft in Early Twentieth-Century Western Australia', AUSTRALIAN HISTORICAL STUDIES, vol. 51, no. 3, pp. 282-298.View/Download from: Publisher's site
Nagy, V & Piper, A 2019, 'Imprisonment of Female Urban and Rural Offenders in Victoria, 1860-1920', International Journal for Crime, Justice and Social Democracy, vol. 8, no. 1, pp. 100-115.View/Download from: Publisher's site
This paper examines imprisonment data from Victoria between 1860 and 1920 to gather insights into the variations in incidence of women being convicted by rural versus urban courts, including close focus on the difference in types of offences being committed in urban and rural locations. This paper also details women's mobility between both communities as well as change in their offending profiles based on their geographic locations. Our findings suggest that while the authorities were broadly most concerned with removing disorderly and vagrant women from both urban and rural streets, rural offending had its own characteristics that differentiate it from urban offending. Therefore, this demonstrates that when examining female offending, geographic location of an offender and offence must be taken into consideration.
Finnane, M, Kaladelfos, A & Piper, AJ 2018, 'Sharing the archive: Using web technologies for accessing, storing and re-using historical data', Methodological Innovations, vol. 11, no. 2, pp. 1-11.View/Download from: Publisher's site
Historical data pose a variety of problems to those who seek statistically based understandings of the past. Quantitative historical analysis has been limited by researcher's reliance on rigid statistics collected by individuals or agencies, or else by researcher access to small samples of raw data. Even digital technologies by themselves have not been enough to overcome the challenges of working with manuscript sources and aligning dis-aggregated data. However, by coupling the facilities enabled by the web with the enthusiasm of the public for explorations of the past, history has started to make the same strides towards big data evident in other fields. While the use of citizens to crowdsource research data was first pioneered within the sciences, a number of projects have similarly begun to draw on the help of citizen historians. This article explores the particular example of the Prosecution Project, which since 2014 has been using crowdsourced volunteers on a research collaboration to build a large-scale relational database of criminal prosecutions throughout Australia from the early 1800s to 1960s. The article outlines the opportunities and challenges faced by projects seeking to use web technologies to access, store and re-use historical data in an environment that increasingly enables creative collaborations between researchers and other users of social and historical data.
Piper, A & Vogel, L 2018, 'Co-Offenders before the Court: The Joinder Effect in Victoria, 1861-1961', law&history, vol. 5, no. 2, pp. 111-136.
It is well established in legal and psychological research that combining multiple charges against a defendant into a single trial event has a tendency to increase the chance of conviction - this is known as the joinder effect. Legal scholars have long theorised that combining the trials of multiple defendants has a similar effect, disadvantaging co-accused by tainting them with guilt by association. However, little empirical evidence has been presented to support this. It has further been suggested that the joinder of co-accused defendants became more pronounced during the twentieth century, as judges in common law jurisdictions became increasingly reluctant to increase the courts' workload by severing trials. Drawing on a sample of prosecutions data from Victoria, this article explores the impact that being co-accused had on trial outcomes and the wider legal and sociohistorical issues surrounding such joint trials.
Piper, AJ 2018, ''Us Girls Won't Put One Another Away': relations among Melbourne's prostitute pickpockets, 1860-1920', Womens History Review, vol. 27, no. 2, pp. 247-265.View/Download from: Publisher's site
Larceny from the person, or pickpocketing, was the most common form of indictable crime committed by female offenders in turn-of-the-century Melbourne. It was an offence particularly likely to appear within the criminal careers of recidivist female offenders. Female pickpocketing, however, was notoriously difficult to prosecute. The usual differences found in trial outcomes for men and women were exacerbated by the specific contexts in which such robberies occurred, that is in the context of solicitation or sex work. This not only meant victims were reluctant to prosecute, but that women's offending often took place within criminal subcultures that fostered interpersonal relationships between women that served to support them throughout the commission of the crime and during the trial process.
Piper, AJ 2018, 'Victimization Narratives and Courtroom Sexual Politics: Prosecuting Male Burglars and Female Pickpockets in Melbourne, 1860-1921', JOURNAL OF SOCIAL HISTORY, vol. 51, no. 4, pp. 760-783.View/Download from: Publisher's site
Piper, AJ & Nagy, V 2018, 'Risk Factors and Pathways to Imprisonment among Incarcerated Women in Victoria, 1860–1920', Journal of Australian Studies, vol. 42, no. 3, pp. 268-284.View/Download from: Publisher's site
Criminological studies have found that men's and women's pathways to imprisonment differ, with risk factors such as substance abuse, mental illness, socioeconomic circumstances and past victimisation more strongly associated with female prisoners. However, limited quantitative or longitudinal research exists on how the risk factors associated with female offending may have shifted over time. This article investigates the criminal careers and pathways to imprisonment of 6,042 women incarcerated in Victoria between 1860 and 1920, and the risk factors associated with subsequent recidivism. The findings suggest that, while many of today's risk factors were present historically, there have been notable shifts across time.
Piper, A & Durnian, L 2017, 'Theft on trial: Prosecution, conviction and sentencing patterns in colonial Victoria and Western Australia', Australian and New Zealand Journal of Criminology, vol. 50, no. 1, pp. 5-22.View/Download from: Publisher's site
From Ned Kelly to Waltzing Matilda, tales of thievery dominate Australia's colonial history. Yet while theft represents one of the most pervasive forms of criminal activity, it remains an under-researched area in Australian historical scholarship. This article draws on detailed inter-jurisdictional research from Victoria and Western Australia to elaborate trends in the prosecution, conviction and sentencing of theft in colonial Australia. In particular, we use these patterns to explore courtroom attitudes towards different forms of theft by situating such statistics within the context of contemporary commentaries. We examine the way responses to theft and the protection of property were affected by colonial conditions, and consider the influence of a variety of factors on the outcomes of theft trials.
Piper, A & Finnane, M 2017, 'Defending the Accused: The Impact of Legal Representation on Criminal Trial Outcomes in Victoria, Australia 1861-1961', JOURNAL OF LEGAL HISTORY, vol. 38, no. 1, pp. 27-53.View/Download from: Publisher's site
Piper, AJ 2017, 'To judge a thief: How the background of thieves became central to dispensing justice, Western Australia, 1921-1951', law&history, vol. 4, no. 1, pp. 113-144.
Piper, AJ & Finnane, M 2017, 'Access to legal representation by criminal defendants in Victoria, 1861-1961', University of New South Wales Law Journal, vol. 40, no. 2, pp. 638-663.
Piper, AJ & Nagy, V 2017, 'Versatile Offending: Criminal Careers of Female Prisoners in Australia, 1860-1920', Journal of Interdisciplinary History, vol. 48, no. 2, pp. 187-210.View/Download from: Publisher's site
The use of longitudinal data from the criminal records of a sample of 6,042 female prisoners in nineteenth- and twentieth-century Victoria reveals limitations in the traditional method of examining criminality within specific offense categories. Investigations devoted exclusively to particular categories of women's offenses potentially obscures the extent to which women resorted to multiple forms of offending. Such versatile activity challenges conceptions of women as predominantly petty offenders by suggesting that some women were arrested for minor offenses because of their engagement in more serious crimes and their participation in criminal sub-cultures.
Finnane, M & Piper, A 2016, 'The Prosecution Project: Understanding the Changing Criminal Trial Through Digital Tools', LAW AND HISTORY REVIEW, vol. 34, no. 4, pp. 873-891.View/Download from: Publisher's site
Piper, A 2016, 'Nick Dyrenfurth, Mateship: A very Australian history, Melbourne: Scribe, 2015, ISBN 9 7819 2510 6350, 256 pp., $29.99.', Queensland Review, vol. 23, no. 1, pp. 107-108.View/Download from: Publisher's site
Piper, AJ 2016, '"Woman's Special Enemy": Female Enmity in Criminal Discourse during the Long Nineteenth Century', JOURNAL OF SOCIAL HISTORY, vol. 49, no. 3, pp. 671-692.View/Download from: Publisher's site
Piper, AJ 2015, '"I'll have no man": female families in Melbourne's criminal subcultures, 1860–1920', Journal of Australian Studies, vol. 39, no. 4, pp. 444-460.
Piper, AJ 2015, 'The Special Jury in Australia', Criminal Law Journal, vol. 39, no. 4, pp. 218-220.
Piper, AJ 2015, 'Women's Work: The Professionalisation and Policing of Fortune-Telling in Australia', Labour History, no. 108, pp. 1-16.
Bellanta, M & Piper, AJ 2014, 'Looking Flash: Disreputable Women's Dress and "Modernity", 1870–1910', History Workshop Journal, vol. 78, no. 1, pp. 58-81.
Piper, AJ 2014, 'A Menace and an Evil": Fortune-telling in Australia, 1900-1918', History Australia, vol. 11, no. 3, pp. 53-73.
Piper, AJ 2014, 'The scales of justice', Criminal Law Journal, vol. 38, no. 6, pp. 384-386.
© 2012 Taylor and Francis Group LLC. 'When they are all thrown together it is impossible to improve them', declared turnkey Sarah Ann Nixon of the female prisoners at the Toowoomba Gaol during the 1887 inquiry into Queensland prisons. Nixon was articulating a paradox that authorities struggled with throughout the Victorian era. During the late nineteenth century, a variety of institutions were established to contain female disorderliness and effect the reform of criminal and immoral women. Yet in facilitating the development of relationships between women from the social margins, incarcerative settings threatened to act as breeding grounds, rather than repositories, of unruly women. An inquiry into Queensland prisons in 1887 revealed rebellious and subversive inmate subcultures in which women banded together to sing, dance, laugh, talk and tell each other stories; arrange the smuggling of supplies; defy authorities; and engage in emotional and sexual relationships with each other. These activities represented traditions and encompassed relationships imported from an external underclass community. This article has been peer-reviewed.
Piper, AJ 2012, '"I go out worse every time": Connections and corruption in a female prison', History Australia, vol. 9, no. 3, pp. 129-150.
Piper, AJ 2010, ''"A growing vice": the Truth about Brisbane girls and drunkenness in the early twentieth century', Journal of Australian Studies, vol. 34, no. 4, pp. 485-497.
Piper, A 2020, 'Crowdsourcing: Citizen History and Criminal Characters' in Ashton, P, Evans, T & Hamilton, P (eds), Making Histories, De Gruyter, pp. 199-210.
Piper, A, Bijleveld, C, Dennison, S & de Bruin, J 2020, 'Female and Male Prisoners in Queensland 1880–1899' in van der Heijden, M, Pluskota, M & Muurling, S (eds), Women's Criminality in Europe, 1600-1914, Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, pp. 148-170.
Employing a mixed-method approach to quantitative data from the Queensland Police Gazette and qualitative evidence from newspaper archives and government reviews of women's gaols, this chapter studies women's imprisonment in Queensland, Australia, at the end of the nineteenth century. It describes the profiles of men and women committed to prison in Queensland from 1880–1899, and the extent to which men and women recidivated. In spite of a number of methodological caveats, women were more likely to be (chronic) recidivists than men during the late nineteenth century in Queensland. This chapter argues that this can be explained in terms of their different social and economic disadvantages and vulnerabilities, related to their stigmatization, policing and institutionalization.
Piper, A 2019, 'Understanding economic abuse as domestic violence' in Piper, A & Stevenson, A (eds), Gender violence in Australia: Historical Perspectives, Monash University Publishing, Clayton, Victoria, pp. 34-48.
In April 1890, Michael Barry was tried at the Rockhampton sittings of the Queensland Supreme Court for the murder of his wife Mary. Barry's lawyer called no witnesses during the trial.1 The basic facts of the case were not in dispute. In February Barry had committed a violent attack on his wife that lasted several hours. Their eldest child, twelve-year-old Johanna, had tried to intervene and consequently was also assaulted by her father. Neighbours heard Mary's screams but had not interfered. Such disturbances were common in the Barry household.2 When Barry emerged later that day a neighbour did ask him why the children were crying. He told her, "They will have something more to cry for before long. I gave her a beating last night and kicked her, and she is dead."3 He then went to the police station and made a full confession of the events leading up to his wife's death
Piper, A & Stevenson, A 2019, 'Introduction: Challenging Gender Violence' in Piper, A & Stevenson, A (eds), Gender Violence in Australia Historical Perspectives, Monash University Publishing, Clayton, Victoria, pp. vii-xix.
The histories presented in this collection indicate exactly where these violent behaviours come from and how they have been rationalised over time, offering an important resource for addressing what amounts to a widespread, persistent, and ...
Piper, A 2017, 'Australia, crime, law and punishment' in A Companion to The History of Crime and Criminal Justice.
Piper, A 2017, 'Female thieves' in A Companion to The History of Crime and Criminal Justice.
Piper, A 2017, 'Fortune-telling' in A Companion to The History of Crime and Criminal Justice.
Piper, A 2017, 'Australia, crime, law and punishment' in A Companion to The History of Crime and Criminal Justice, pp. 5-7.
Piper, A 2017, 'Female thieves' in A Companion to The History of Crime and Criminal Justice, pp. 85-87.
Piper, A 2017, 'Fortune-telling' in A Companion to The History of Crime and Criminal Justice, pp. 92-94.
Arthur, P, Champion, E, Craig, H, Gu, N, Harvey, M, Haskins, V, May, A, Pascoe, B, Piper, A, Ryan, L, Smith, R & Verhoeven, D 2020, 'Time-Layered Cultural Map of Australia', Proceedings of the Digital Humanities in the Nordic Countries 5th Conference, Digital Humanities in the Nordic Countries Conference, Riga, Latvia, pp. 184-191.
Piper, A 2020, 'Did they see it coming? How fortune-telling took hold in Australia - with women as clients and criminals', The Conversation.
Piper, A 2019, 'Lily Walker: A Prostitute-Pickpocket Meets A Reverend', VIDA: Blog of the Australian Women's History Network.
Although male offenders far outnumbered women, both historically and in the present, the lives of over 6,000 female offenders can be glimpsed through the prison records being transcribed by citizen historians for the Criminal Characters project. These female prisoners include infamous Melbourne prostitute-pickpocket Lily Walker.
Piper, A 2019, 'The female world of love and larceny', Notches: (re)marks on the history of sexuality.
I was recently delighted to learn of the return of the period drama Harlots for a third season. The television series set in rival eighteenth-century London brothels is good viewing, even if its portrait of historical sex work is not always accurate. One thing the show does get right though is its focus on how relationships between women – familial, business, friendly, antagonistic, romantic, and exploitative – largely shaped the lives of women regularly engaged in the sex trade.
Female Prisoners discharged from Victorian Prisons 1860-1934. The data includes name, offence, sentence, trial date, discharge date, conviction history and some prisoner attributes including religion, literacy, place and year of birth and ship of arrival in Australia
Piper, A & Stevenson, A 2019, 'The long history of gender violence in Australia, and why it matters today', The Conversation.
Piper, A, Rademaker, L, Kaladelfos, A, Silverstein, J, Ellinghaus, K, Tomsic, M, Wolfe, N, Henningham, N & Rees, Y 2018, 'Sexual abuse, harassment and discrimination 'rife' among Australian academics', The Conversation.
Piper, A 2017, 'Book thieves in 19th-century Melbourne', VIDA: Blog of the Australian Women's History Network.
In October 1894 retired Presbyterian minister and classical scholar George Graham committed suicide while under suspicion of theft. The elderly Graham had been accused of stealing a number of expensive works from Cole's Book Arcade in Melbourne. The then world-famous book emporium – reputedly the largest on the globe with approximately two million books in stock – suffered regularly from such losses. However, the systematic depredations made in the classical department had been noted over a period of eighteen months, and special surveillance was established that identified Graham as the perpetrator.
Piper, A 2017, 'Why history shows we need lawyers', The Prosecution Project Research Briefs.
Why do people need lawyers? This may sound like the start of a joke. Yet the need for lawyers remains a serious issue for anyone seeking protection of their constitutional rights, arbitration in civil disputes or a fair trial in criminal matters.
Piper, A & Nagy, V 2017, 'Disorderly women, broken windows and social outcasts', VIDA: Blog of the Australian Women's History Network.
Most criminal offending by women in common-law jurisdictions during the nineteenth and early twentieth century fell into three main categories: property, personal, and public-order. As Lucy Williams comments in respect to Victorian England, 'Whilst crimes of theft most often saw women convicted of felonies and sent to convict prisons and violent crimes stole newspaper headlines, women who drank excessively or sold themselves on the streets (often both) probably constituted the largest single group of female offenders...' Many historical studies of female offenders consequently approach the study of the different crimes committed by women in isolation from each other, largely treating the women involved in each category as belonging to a different group. Seldom do they deal with the potential overlap between these groups in depth. Yet contemporary criminological research suggests women are more likely to be versatile than specialist offenders, engaging in a range of offences over the course of their criminal careers.
Piper, A 2016, 'Crime across time: Mapping longitudinal changes in criminal justice', The Prosecution Project Research Briefs.
One of the benefits of the Prosecution Project's large-scale digitisation of court records is that it not only allows researchers to trace individuals, but to map changes in the criminal justice process over a long period of time. Mapping these longitudinal changes is not only of potential value to scholars of legal history, but to those interested in placing their ancestors' experiences with the court system in a wider context.
Piper, A 2016, 'The role of economic abuse in domestic violence', VIDA: Blog of the Australian Women's History Network.
In April 1890, Michael Barry was tried at the Rockhampton sittings of the Queensland Supreme Court for the murder of his wife Mary. Barry's lawyer called no witnesses in his client's defense during the trial. The basic facts of the case were not in dispute.
Piper, A 2015, 'Juries and impartial justice', Prosecution Project Research Briefs.
In 1898, police constable Edward Johnson was committed for trial on larceny charges. Johnson, acting in his official capacity, had allegedly received an overdue rates payment from a householder at Bendigo, and neglected to pay it into the council fund. In December Johnson was duly tried, but the jury failed to agree on a verdict. The following month, an application was made by the Crown Solicitor's office for a change of venue for the second trial. It was argued that a 'fair and impartial' trial could not be achieved in Bendigo, where Johnson was a well-known figure. The constable had apparently received considerable community sympathy since being suspended from the force, and it was believed that a local jury was unlikely to agree on a guilty verdict.
Piper, A 2015, 'Love and deceit', The Prosecution Project Research Briefs.
For the past several weeks, radio listeners who tune in to the drive-time programme of comedians Dave Hughes and Kate Langbroek have been enthralled by the unfolding saga of Barb and Niko. Barb is Langbroek's online alter-ego, whose dating profile – depicting her as a rich middle-aged widow – was designed to attract internet scammers.
Piper, AJ 2015, 'The myth that women secretly hate other women has a long history', The Conversation.
Piper, A 2014, 'Christmas, crime and spirits', The Prosecution Project Research Briefs.
The festive period may be the season of good will, but this annual spirit of benevolence is not particularly apparent from the annals of criminal history. While court business is suspended across the holidays, crime is decidedly not. Just like the rest of the year, a variety of offences against property, the person and public order have historically been committed on or around Christmas. The only difference has perhaps been the perception of such events as particularly poignant due to the disjunction between the tragic suffering of those touched by crime to the general merriment of the season.
Piper, A 2014, 'Unearthing Criminal Pasts', The Prosecution Project Research Briefs.
For those infected with the historical research bug, there are few more satisfying experiences than delving into the original records held in private, national or state archives. Almost every researcher I have encountered at such institutions – be they family, local or academic historians – insist that it is this treasure-hunting aspect of the work that is the most rewarding. Like others with a passion for history, I too take an ordinate amount of joy from the 'aha!' moments that records searching provides when one stumbles across a significant or surprising piece of information that offers fresh insights, or confirms an historical hunch. I am thus very pleased to be spending the month conducting research for The Prosecution Project at the Public Records Office of Victoria.
Piper, A 2014, 'Uttering, not littering', The Prosecution Project Research Briefs.
Learning to decipher the handwritten criminal registers being used to construct the Prosecution Project's database can be like learning another language. Over time the initially illegible appearance of nineteenth-century scrawl becomes more familiar. Those who work regularly with archival documents gradually learn the secrets of decoding the idiosyncrasies of historic handwriting; discovering, for example, that a double 'ss' can take on the appearance of an 'f'.
Piper, A 2014, 'Why My Research Matters: Mean Girls and Criminal Women in Australian History', History Workshop Online.
At Sydney's Festival of Dangerous Ideas in 2012 a discussion was held on the question of whether all women hate each other. The panel, which featured feminist icon Germaine Greer, social activist Eva Cox and model-turned-crime-writer Tara Moss, was organised in response to a developing meme within the media claiming that women are more competitive and antagonistic towards each other than they are to men, and than men are to each other. While acknowledging that there is a grain of truth in the 'mean girl' paradigm posited by scholars of juvenile delinquency, the panellists argued that negative interactions between women receive a disproportionate amount of attention in society. As Moss pointed out, global crime statistics reveal an overwhelming pattern of male-on-male violence, but no one was suggesting that all men hate each other.