In The 19th-Century Underworld: Crime, Controversy & Corruption, historian and novelist Stephen Carver, drawing upon a wide range of archival and literary sources, takes us on a journey through the seedy courts and sinister alleyways of the criminal underworld which existed during the nineteenth century.
If you were a criminal, what would you choose – a life sentence in prison, the death sentence, or to be surgically blinded?
G. W. M. Reynolds, the “vicious republican” of the Victorian era, attributed the cause of all crime to the the existence of the royal family and the political establishment.
In the Victorian era, New York was a large industrial city with ‘dark Satanic mills’ in which the poor and the rich lived “cheek by jowl”; paupers lived a hand-to-mouth existence and for many, a life of crime as part of an organised criminal gang.
Contrary to stories of Robin Hood, an outlaw’s life was not a merry one: in the 1820s, banditry in Italy was rife; at this time, a young travel writer named Charles Macfarlane was touring the country and managed to obtain a rare interview with one of these brigands.
Expelled from school after stabbing his classmate, G. Barrington became an actor, then a pickpocket, until he was transported to Botany Bay and died of insanity.
Wakefield, West Yorkshire, 1803, a 67 year old woman is murdered in her bed by John Terry, apprentice.
In the 18th century, people asssumed that if you shunned work and acted like an idle apprentice, you would become a criminal.
When “Upperworld” and “Underworld” Meet: Social Class and Crime in “The Mysteries of London (1844-46)
Rich people commit greater crimes than their poorer counterparts, but they are at their most dangerous when members of the “upperworld” and “underworld” work together.
Given that the term “fake news” has recently been bandied around by some very prominent public figures on social media (hurled as a term of abuse at various media outlets, and usually in capital letters), I thought I might bring to people’s attention an interesting little court case from June 1778.