Dr Emma Watkins

Department of Social Policy, Sociology and Criminology
Lecturer in Criminology

Contact details

School of Social Policy
University of Birmingham
B15 2TT

Emma is a Lecturer in Criminology and a fellow of higher education; she was awarded her PhD at University of Liverpool. That thesis led to the monograph: Life Courses of Young Convicts Transported to Van Diemen's Land. Emma is an historical criminologist who uses digital technologies with historical documentation and criminological methodologies. An elected member of the Royal Historical Society.

Listen to Emma’s current project - The Forgotten Convicts 


  • 2020: Fellow of the HEA
  • 2014-2018: University of Liverpool - Doctor of Philosophy


  • Crime and Society
  • Violence in a Global Context
  • LM (MA) Dissertation 

Postgraduate supervision

SEDA Accredited: Supervising Doctoral Research

Emma would be interested in supervising PhD theses related to Historical Criminology and Crime History in the following areas:

  • Institutional history
  • The history of the criminal justice system
  • Colonial history
  • Juvenile offending and justice
  • Nineteenth-century crime and punishment
  • Other related topics


Emma completed her PhD at the University of Liverpool with the historical criminological project The Digital PanopticonThis research was published in her first solo book Life Courses of Young Convicts Transported to Van Diemen’s Land. Emma uses the method of life-course analysis through the data-linkage of historical documents.

Emma’s current project is on pauper-emancipists. This interdisciplinary research explores the collective and individual life-courses of transported convicts who moved from the convict to the pauper establishments in Australia. Moreover, this research engages with the contribution of historical studies, using the life-course method, to mainstream criminology.

Emma is beginning a new historical criminological project which will explore the first government-run youth institutions in England and Wales; the reformatory schools. This research will explore the narratives of ‘justification’ regarding physical force from an historical perspective. Since children have been imprisoned, they have been mistreated and abused. How was mistreatment justified, criticised and/or ignored within these historical institutions, and within the wider context of the political/public domain? This long historical lens will allow an understanding of the continued acceptance of the mistreatment of children within the secure estate today.


Watkins, E. (in press out)Juvenile Convicts and their Vandemonian Criminal Careers’, The Journal of Australian Colonial History, vol.23

Lightowlers, C., Sanchez, J. P. & Watkins, E. (2020)‘Contextual culpability: How drinking and social context impact upon sentencing of violence’, Criminology & Criminal Justice

Watkins, E. (2020)Book Review: Children’s voices from the past: new historical and interdisciplinary perspectives (eds.) Moruzi, K., Musgrove, N. & Leahy, C. In Childhood in the Past.

Watkins, E. (2020) Life Courses of Young Convicts Transported to Van Diemen's Land, (London: Bloomsbury).

Watkins, E. & Godfrey, B. (2018) Criminal Children: Researching Juvenile Offenders 1820-1920, (Pen & Sword).

Watkins, E. (2018) ‘Transported Beyond the Seas: Criminal Juveniles’, In Nineteenth Century Childhoods in Interdisciplinary and International Perspectives, Series: Childhood in the Past Vol 6 (eds.) Baxter J E. & Ellis, M. (Oxford: Oxbow).

Alker, Z. & Watkins, E. (2018) ‘History, life course criminology and digital methods: new directions for conceptualizing juvenile justice in Europe’ In Juvenile Justice in Europe: Past, Present and Future (ed.) Goldson, B. (Oxon: Routledge).

Watkins, E. (2018) ‘Juvenile convicts and their colonial familial lives’, The History of the Family, 23(2) 307-328

Watkins, E. (2017) “The Criminal Class” and “Life Course Analysis”, In Companion to Crime and Criminal Justice History (eds.) Turner, J., Taylor, T., Morley, S. & Corteen, K A. (Bristol: Policy Press).