Rogues, Thieves, and the Rule of Law: The Problem of Law Enforcement in North-East England, 1718-1800

By Gwenda Morgan; Peter Rushton | Go to book overview

CHAPTER FOUR

The social organization of crime

Images of crime

In July 1785 the Newcastle authorities placed an advertisement in the Newcastle Courant announcing that there were:

Three Boys, Natives of Scotland, in Custody at Newcastle suspected to belong to a Gang of Thieves and Pick-Pockets … They lately came from Edinburgh, have all the Scots accent, and were last at Stagshaw Bank Fair, where they appeared to be connected with a gang of several other suspected persons.

They were not very formidable: the eldest, Thomas Boag, was 25 years of age and only about 5 feet in height, while his companions Daniel McKie and Steel McColloch, or McCalow, were about 15 and 14, and under 4 feet 10 inches. 1 Nothing came of this alarm, though individual Scottish boy-pickpockets were prosecuted in subsequent years. This account is typical of the language used in eighteenth-century crime reporting, reflecting a very distinctive notion of criminal danger. Criminal activity was often described as involving gangs of mobile outsiders.

Exaggerated anxiety about organized crime was not unique to this region, for images of early modern crime were shaped by the myth of the gang and its dominance of a criminal underworld of organized professionals, a picture that had been common since at least the sixteenth century. According to this portrait, the underworld possessed its own language (“cant”), forms of leadership, and economic resources. It seemed an alternative to the respectable community and beyond any control by

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Rogues, Thieves, and the Rule of Law: The Problem of Law Enforcement in North-East England, 1718-1800
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Contents v
  • Acknowledgements vii
  • Glossary ix
  • List of Tables xi
  • List of Illustrations xii
  • North-East England xiii
  • Introduction 1
  • Chapter One - The Character of North-East England 9
  • Chapter Two - Enforcing the Law 27
  • Chapter Three - The Patterns of Crimes and Punishments 47
  • Chapter Four - The Social Organization of Crime 77
  • Chapter Five - Common and Unnatural Crimes: Women and North-East Crime 97
  • Chapter Six - Learning Their Lesson: the Use of Public Punishments 125
  • Chapter Seven - Transportation 153
  • Chapter Eight - Correction and Imprisonment 171
  • Chapter Nine - Law and Disorder 191
  • Conclusion 215
  • Notes 219
  • Bibliography 261
  • Index 277
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