The Liverpool Underworld: Crime in the City, 1750-1900

The Liverpool Underworld: Crime in the City, 1750-1900

The Liverpool Underworld: Crime in the City, 1750-1900

The Liverpool Underworld: Crime in the City, 1750-1900

Excerpt

For a number of years Liverpool has suffered a bad press. The city was once a byword for political militancy and renowned for its strike-prone workforce. The Toxteth riots of 1981 became a crisis point in relations between young black people and the police. For the first time on the UK mainland Cs gas was deployed against rioters. Liverpool’s Chief Constable spoke of the ‘aggressive nature’ and historically ‘turbulent character’ of the ‘true Liverpudlian’, ‘proportionally tougher, more violent and more pugnacious’ than others. The Hillsborough football stadium disaster of 1989 provoked libellous slurs about drunken and rowdy Liverpool FC supporters. The appalling child killings of James Bulger and Rhys Jones focused national media attention on Violence within the city. The reputation of thieving Scousers is staple comic fare throughout the country. suspicions of widespread fraud lie behind the city’s current status as ‘compensation capital’ of Britain, a hotbed for legal claims against the council for damages following trips on the pavement and other mishaps. Liverpool remains a major player in the international drugs trade. other cities have been home to outrageous crimes and criminals and yet it is Liverpool that retains a special status for criminality and belligerence.

This is nothing new. ‘What makes it our wickedest city?’ asked the Daily Herald in 1950. A few years earlier, a journalist from the Daily Mirror visited the city’s south end only to find 1,000 juvenile gangsters on the loose. After the transport strike of 1911 the city was denounced as ‘[a] nightmare of civilisation […] The most criminal, the most drunken, the most lawless city in the United Kingdom.’ in the nineteenth century the situation was not much better. The Liverpool Mercury gave a damning verdict on Liverpool: ‘In wickedness and misery it is unmatched by any city in the empire’. in the biased view of one Birmingham town councillor, ‘Liverpool was a sort of outlet sewer for all the vagabonds in the land’. For The Times, Liverpool was particularly vile: ‘the offscourings of humanity congregate in its docks, and crowd its foul courts and suffocating alleys’. Although the newspaper admitted that violent crime . . .

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