Flashcards in Crime and Punishment in 18th and 19th century Britain Deck (80)
Which crimes were most feared by the authorities in the period 1500-1700?
heresy, vagabondage and witchcraft.
Why did these old crimes of heresy, vagabondage and witchcraft change? Give three reasons.
1. The religious uncertainty of the Reformation had passed - the last execution for heresy was in 1612.
2. Wealth increased from 1700-1900. Therefore, fear of vagabondage decreased greatly.
3. Most educated people, usually the ones responsible for judging cases of witchcraft, became less likely to believe these accusations.
What happened in 1736?
The witchcraft laws were finally repealed.
Which TYPES of crime became more of a worry to the authorities in the 18th and 19th centuries?
Crimes that threatened trade (such as highway robbery and smuggling), the interests of landowners (such as poaching) and the interests of employers (even such as joining trade unions.
Was highway robbery a new crime?
No, it started during the chaos of the Civil War (1642-49).
Were these highwaymen gentlemen or brutal robbers?
They were ruthless and would think nothing of killing or maiming their victims to avoid being identified.
What factors explain the growth of highway robbery?
Some factors include:
More people travelling in their own coaches
Handguns were easier to obtain
Demobilised soldiers struggled to make an honest living
Horses became cheaper to buy - making it easier for robbers to ambush victims and then make quick getaways
No police force and local constables didn't track criminals across county lines
Highwaymen could hide and sell their stolen loot in taverns
Bad roads meant coaches had to slow down
What factors explain the rapid decline in highway robbery?
Better roads meant quicker and more frequent coaches
Mounted patrols were set up around London and high rewards given for information about highwaymen
JPs refused to license taverns used by highwaymen
Improvements in banking meant fewer people carried large amounts of money
Define the 1723 Black Act.
This showed how seriously the authorities saw poaching: it made the hunting of deer, hare or rabbits a capital crime. Anyone found armed, disguised or with a blackened face was assumed to be poaching and could be executed.
Who was and was not allowed to hunt legally?
Only landowners whose land was worth £100 a year could hunt - and they could hunt anywhere. Landowners with land worth less than £100 a year and their tenants could not hunt - even on their own land.
What was the punishment for possessing dogs or snares?
£5 fine or three months in prison.
What effect did the harsh laws and use of gamekeepers have?
Some poachers became violent. For example - in 1786 a Staffordshire farm labourer horsewhipped a gamekeeper who tried to take his hare.
Also, villagers frequently gave alibis to protect poachers from conviction.
Was poaching financially rewarding?
It could be (although most people only poached in small amounts). For example, John Lightwood, who killed almost 80 hares in 1764 before selling them for 3 shillings a piece - more than he could possibly earn in his day job.
What happened in 1748?
The Duke of Richmond was asked to smash the smuggling gangs. 35 smugglers were hanged and a further 10 dies in gaol.
Did the Duke of Richmond's actions 'smash' smuggling?
No. There were around 20,000 active smugglers - so it hardly had any impact.
What criteria could you use to explain why smuggling increased or continued to flourish?
1. Fear of smugglers
2. The attraction of smuggling
3. Organised gangs
4. Public attitudes
How widespread was smuggling and how many smugglers were there?
Very widespread - but concentraqted around the coast. In 1748, 103 people were officially 'wanted' as smugglers - but there were probably closer to 20,000.
Who were the smugglers?
Over 70 percent were labourers. Fewer than 10 percent were small landowners. The rest were tradesmen, such as butchers and carpenters.
How big was a smuggling gang?.
They could be 50 to 100 men strong. They were well armed and had little fear of the customs officers or the army.
What evidence suggests the scale of the problem?
For example, it was estimated that 3 million pounds weight of tea was smuggled into Britain each year.
When was the French Revolution and why does this matter?
in 1789 - it matters because the authorities in Britain became terrified of the same thing happening here.
What were the authorities on the lookout for during the build up to the Tolpuddle Martyrs?
Any signs of conspiracy and for groups whose ideas they considered suspect.
Why was life so hard for farm labourers in the Dorset village of Tolpuddle?
Because they had their weekly wage cut several times. When they asked for an increase, they were refused and then their wages were cut again!
Who led the farm labourers in asking for a wage increase?
A man called George Loveless.
In 1833, after they had been refused a wage increase, what did the labourers of Tolpuddle do?
They set up a union - the Friendly Society of Agricultural Labourers.
How did the Friendly Society of Agricultural Labourers (FSAL) admit into the union?
Each new member had to wear a blindfold and swear an oath of secrecy and support for the union.
What happened after the FSAL was set up?
The farm owners found out (despite the oath of secrecy) and set about breaking the union up - they used a law originally intended for the Navy which said that swearing secret oaths was illegal because it could lead to mutiny.
What law did the authorities use to convict the Tolpuddle Martyrs?
The Unlawful Oaths Act 1797, an obscure law created in response to mutinies in the Navy, which prohibited the swearing of secret oaths. This showed how nervous the authorities were because they were changing laws to suit their own purposes.
What happened to the Tolpuddle Martyrs?
They were convicted and sentenced to 7 years' transportation to Australia.