The North-East emerges from this study as a region which in the eighteenth century was in some ways distinctive and in others typical of the country as a whole. At the end of the seventeenth century the legal localism of the counties was still bolstered by unique Border laws and the peculiar status of the Palatinate. After 1700 this legal framework became of lesser importance as the region conformed to, or came to share, the laws of the rest of England. Nevertheless, something of the independent character, or self-image, of the local authorities remained in their relationships with outsiders. Yet in terms of the general composition of the crimes prosecuted and punished, north-eastern courts experienced a stream of typically minor property offences mixed with a few serious crimes of violent robbery or murder. Rural areas rightly feared horse theft and dangerous burglaries, while the towns witnessed many robberies from the person (mainly by picking pockets) and petty thefts in houses and taverns. Only a few expert criminals mainly involved in forging or coining, operated in the region. While there was great local fear of organized crime, few of the so-called gangs resembled modern notions of organized crime: they consisted of married couples, their children and friends. They could, nevertheless, be very mobile and difficult to catch; some were particularly adept at returning from transportation. These features are an expected part of the established pattern of eighteenth-century crime in England, though the local characteristics of many of the people, some from Scotland, others from the marginal economy of the Borders, made them distinctive. The fluctuations in crimes such as thefts over the century, too, parallel the swings between dearth and plenty, peace and war,
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Publication information: Book title: Rogues, Thieves, and the Rule of Law: The Problem of Law Enforcement in North-East England, 1718-1800. Contributors: Gwenda Morgan - Author, Peter Rushton - Author. Publisher: UCL Press. Place of publication: London. Publication year: 1998. Page number: 215.
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