School of Cultures, Languages and Area Studies

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Vivien Miller

Associate Professor, American and Canadian Studies, Faculty of Arts



Current Post:

As of September 2007, I am Associate Professor in American History in the Department of American & Canadian Studies at the University of Nottingham. Before that I was a part-time lecturer in US History, teaching Gender in Early America in the Politics and History section of Brunel University Business School. Between 1993 and 2006 I taught at Middlesex University, first in American Studies and then in History, latterly as Principal Lecturer in American Studies and History.

I received my PhD in History from the Open University in November 1998 where I was a doctoral student with Professor Clive Emsley. I spent four years at the OU doing my PhD by part-time study as I was working full-time at Middlesex University. My PhD thesis on "Violence, Crime and Executive Clemency in Florida 1889-1918" became my first book, published by University Press of Florida in 2000. My MA History is from the Florida State University in Tallahassee, Florida, where I was also a Graduate Teaching Assistant, and an Oral History Project Researcher. My major field was US History since 1865 and minor field was West European History. In between my MA and PhD studies at the OU, I spent one year at the University of Kansas as a PhD student in History, and as a Graduate Instructor teaching level 1 US history modules. My major field at KU was US History (the whole lot!) with minor fields in Modern Britain, Modern Latin America, and American Studies. My BA (Hons) Combined Studies (History and Politics) is from the University of Newcastle Upon Tyne.

Over the years, I've had numerous part-time and full-time jobs - as a temp booking driving tests at the Dept of Transport in Edinburgh in the days before computers, an au pair and hotel worker in Stuttgart, Germany, a Historical Walking Tour guide and a Ghost Tour guide in Edinburgh, a departmental secretary in Physics at FSU, and as a clerical temp for a shipping company - usually to help pay for fees and living expenses when I was a full-time student.

I am happy to supervise MA and PhD projects on a variety of topics in 19th and 20th C social, criminal justice and legal history. I have been an External Examiner for several PhDs, including a PhD by publication, and for MRes degrees. I was also undergraduate external examiner: Anglia Ruskin University (2001-2004) + then at the University of Newcastle Upon Tyne (2006-2009).

In February 2012, James Campbell at University of Leicester and I secured an Arts & Humanities Research Council (AHRC) award of £23k to set up an interdisciplinary transnational research network called "Translating Penal Cultures" (RA0170) which has its own website:

Expertise Summary

US Capital Punishment





Criminal Justice

Teaching Summary

Current teaching portfolio:


This module explores the history of crime and punishment in the United States from the late eighteenth century shift from public and corporal punishments through the early nineteenth century "invention" of the penitentiary to late twentieth-century concerns over high crime rates and mass incarceration. There is particular emphasis on how race, gender, class and region have shaped responses to violence, crime and disorder, and attitudes toward offenders. A key theme in 2012-13 will be the history of homicide.

Q43008: Policing the City and the Frontier

This module adopts a comparative approach to the study and understanding of police history by focusing on Britain, the United States, and Canada in the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. It examines the creation and experiences of formal, uniformed, paid, round-the-clock and centrally-organised police forces in the three distinct but related countries. It goes on to compare and contrast the formation and development of police and law enforcement in the southern United States, and the western territories/states of the United States and Canada. Key questions include: What factors led to the formation of uniformed patrols in the growing cities of North America? In what ways did the London Metropolitan model influence urban police organisation in the United States and Canada? To what extent were the challenges of urban policing different from frontier policing, and how were these affected by factors such as geography, class, race, ethnicity gender, and mobility?


This module explores the United States' bold but disastrous experiment with Prohibition during the period 1918 to 1933, with particular focus on crime, disorder and policing. We begin with the reasons for passage of the Eighteenth Amendment which outlawed the liquor trade, and examination of its impact on US society and culture during the 1920s. We shall consider the rise of organized crime, gangsters and G-men, and the expanding crime fighting role of the state. The module concludes with the federal crime crusade of the early 1930s and the inglorious end of Prohibition.

Research Summary

Current research interests:

  • Violence, crime and criminal justice in the 19th and 20th C American South
  • Race, gender and class issues in southern punishment and penal practices
  • Gender and capital punishment in the USA

My research interests lie in the histories of violence, crime, and criminal justice in the United States, particularly the south-eastern region or "the South" from the post-Civil War era to the present. Most of my published work to date has focused on Florida, the third most populous state in the US with a huge prison population and often controversial death penalty practices.

I am currently working on a history of capital punishment in Florida c1924-1976 with particular focus on the moratoria period of 1964-1976. A smaller related project explores what happened to the chain gang/road gang in the South after 1945.

I have just completed a social history of Florida's prison system during the first half of the twentieth century that focuses on prisoners and their prison experiences on the chain gang or at the state prison farm in the decades before the civil rights and prisoner rights' movements - provisionally entitled Hard Labor and Hard Time in Florida's "Sunshine Prison" and Chain Gangs. It charts the origins and evolution of Florida's state prison farm and road prisons, and explores the different forms of inmate labor, the punishment regimes, inmate resistance and accommodation, as well as their relations with the guards and superintendents.

Shorter projects that are related to this larger study focus on elite jewel thieves and resort crime, and ransom kidnapping in 1930s Florida.

I have previously worked on several shorter projects which have focused on more contemporary forms of punishment in the United States, including the revived chain gang of 1990s Florida, Alabama, and Arizona, and the military prison at Guantanamo Bay and its similarities to the domestic "supermax" prison.

Selected Publications

Past Research

Crime, Sexual Violence and Clemency was the first state-based historical study of executive clemency. From 1889 to 1918, more than 11,000 persons were convicted and sentenced to hard labour in Florida's convict lease camps. There were four routes to freedom: expriation of sentence, death, escape, and pardon. By comparing letters, petitions, and endorsements from prisoners and their supporters, the study showed that Florida's penal system and pardon board reinforced white male middle-class dominance and restricted the freedom of African American and lower-class white offenders, but at the same time offered opportunities for early release. Whereas most studies of southern crime and criminal justice had focused on the arrest, trial and sentencing stages, this study followed the cultural prejudices through the post-conviction stages. It showed that notions of respectability and proper behaviour were interpreted and selectively applied but were integral to the approval or denial of applications for mercy.

Future Research

Hard Labor and Hard Time: Florida's "Sunshine Prison" and Chain Gangs, (Gainesville, F.L.: University Press of Florida, 2012).

Crime, Sexual Violence, and Clemency: Florida's Pardon Board and Penal System in the Progressive Era, (Gainesville, F.L.: University Press of Florida, 2000).

With Helen Oakley (eds), Cross-Cultural Connections in Crime Fictions, (London: Palgrave Macmillan, 2012)

Forthcoming: 'Family Tragedy and FBI Triumph in the "Southland": The 1938 Kidnap Murder of James Bailey Cash, Jr,' for resubmission to Journal of Southern History, November 2013.

'The life and crimes of Harry Sitamore, New York "Prince of Thieves" and the "Raffles" of Miami,' Florida Historical Quarterly 87/3 (Winter 2009): 378-403.

"Race, Class, Age and Punitive Segregation: Prisons and Prison Populations in the Southern United States," in Iwan Morgan and Philip Davis, eds. America's Americans: Population Issues in U.S. Society and Politics, (London: Institute for the Study of the Americas, 2007), 246-262.

"Murder, 'Convict Flogging Affairs,' and Debt Peonage: The Roaring Twenties in the American South," in Martin Crawford and Richard Godden, eds. Writing Southern Poverty Between the Wars, (Athens: University of Georgia Press, 2006), 77-107.

"Tough Men, Tough Prisons, Tough Times: The Globalization of Super-maximum Secure Prisons," in Mary Bosworth and Jeanne Flavin, eds. Race, Gender and Punishment: From Colonialism To The War On Terror, Critical Issues in Crime and Society Series, (New Brunswick: Rutgers University Press, 2007), 200-215.

"Back on the Southern Chain Gang Lite," in Clive Emsley, ed. The Persistent Prison: Problems, Images and Alternatives, (London: Francis Boutle Publishers, 2005), 144-173.

  • VIVIEN MILLER, 2016. Reflections on the Chain Gang and Prison Narratives from the Southern United States. In: DAVID NASH and ANNE-MARIE KILDAY, eds., Law, Crime and Deviance Since 1700: Micro-Studies in the History of Crime Bloomsbury. 251-270
  • VIVIEN MILLER and JAMES CAMPBELL, eds., 2015. Transnational Penal Cultures:: New Perspectives on Discipline, Punishment, and Desistance, Routledge SOLON Explorations in Crime and Criminal Justice Histories Routledge.
  • VIVIEN MILLER, 2015. “A perfect hell of misery”: real and imagined prison lives in an “American Siberia”. In: VIVIEN MILLER, ed., Transnational Penal Cultures:: New Perspectives on Discipline, Punishment, and Desistance, Routledge SOLON Explorations in Crime and Criminal Justice Histories Routledge.
  • MILLER, V., 2013. Family tragedy and FBI triumph in the "Southland": the 1938 kidnap-murder of James Bailey "Skeegie" Cash Jr Journal of Southern History. 79(4), 841-878
  • MILLER, V., 2013. Respectable white ladies, wayward girls, and telephone thieves in Miami’s “Case of the Clinking Brassieres” University of Nottingham eRepository. Available at: <>
  • MILLER, V.M.L., 2012. Hard labor and hard time: Florida's "sunshine prison" and chain gangs University Press of Florida.
  • MILLER, M. and OAKLEY, H., eds., 2012. Cross-cultural connections in crime fiction Palgrave Macmillan.
  • VIVIEN MILLER, 2012. Chain Gangs & Prison Labor; Convict Lease System; Florida; Kidnapping; Los Angeles, California; Miami, Florida; Prohibition; Synder, Ruth; Wuornos, Aileen. In: WILBUR R. MILLER, ed., The Social History of Crime and Punishment: An Encyclopedia Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage.
  • VIVIEN MILLER, 2012. Films, Prison. In: ALISON GRAHAM and SHARON MONTEITH, eds., The New Encyclopedia of Southern Culture: Media 18. University of North Carolina Press. 91-95
  • VIVIEN MILLER, 2011. "Films about Prison". In: AMY LOUISE WOOD, ed., The New Encyclopedia of Southern Culture: Violence 19. Chapel Hill, NC: The University of North Carolina Press. 67-70
  • MILLER, V., 2007. Tough Men, Tough Prisons, Tough Times: The Globalization of Super-Maximum Secure Prisons. In: BOSWORTH, M. and FLAVIN, J., eds., Race, Gender, and Punishment: From Colonialism to The War On Terror New Brunswick, N.J: Rutgers U.P. 200-215
  • MILLER, VIVIEN, 2007. Race, Class, Age and Punitive Segregation: Prisons and Prison Populations in the Southern United States. In: MORGAN, IWAN AND DAVIS, PHILIP, ed., America's Americans: Population Issues in U.S. Society and Politics London: Institute for the Study of the Americas. 246-262
  • MILLER, VIVIEN, 2006. Murder, "Convict Flogging Affairs," and Debt Peonage: The Roaring Twenties in the American South. In: CRAWFORD, MARTIN, AND GODDEN, RICHARD, ed., Writing Southern Poverty Between the Wars Athens: University of Georgia Press. 77-107
  • MILLER, V, 2005. Back on the Southern 'Chain Gang Lite'. In: EMSLEY, C., ed., The Persistent Prison: Problems, Images and Alternatives London: Francis Boutle. 144-172
  • MILLER, V., 2003. 'The Icelandic Man Cometh': North Dakota State Attorney Gudmunder Grimson and a reassessment of the Martin Tabert Case Florida Historical Quarterly. 81(3), 279-315
  • MILLER, VIVIEN, 2001. A St. Augustine Crime Passionel Florida Historical Quarterly. 79(4), 469-491
  • MILLER, VIVIEN, 2001. North America, The U.S.A., The Far North. In: DOHERTY, GILLIAN, AND CLAYBOURNE, ANNA, ed., The Usborne Book of Peoples of the World London: Usborne. 12-17
  • MILLER, VIVIEN M. L., 2000. Crime, Sexual Violence, and Clemency: Florida's Pardon Board and Penal System in the Progressive Era Gainesville: University Press of Florida.
  • MILLER, VIVIEN, 2000. Reinventing the Penitentiary in Florida, 1868-1923 American Nineteenth Century History. 1(1), 82-106
  • MILLER, VIVIEN, 1997. Crime and Punishment, Violence, Prisons and Asylums. In: PARISH, PETER J., ed., The Reader's Guide to American History London: Fitzroy Dearborn. 185-186, 557-559, 723-725
  • MILLER, VIVIEN, 1996. Wife-killers and Evil Temptresses: Gender, Pardons and Respectability in Florida, 1889-1914 Florida Historical Quarterly. 75(1), 44-68

School of Cultures, Languages and Area Studies

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