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Title: Crime and the rural community in eighteenth century Berkshire, 1740-1789
Author: Williams, R. J.
Awarding Body: University of Reading
Current Institution: University of Reading
Date of Award: 1985
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Eighteenth Century Berkshire was a relatively prosperous agricultural county, with a steadily growing population and several thriving commercial centres. This thesis has examined the recorded incidence of the most common criminal offences against the person and against property in the fifty years between 1740 and 1789. Common assault was the most frequent offence against the person, but its incidence remained fairly steady until the 1770s, and only thereafter did it cause the authorities any real concern. The incidence and variety of assaults was examined and so too were murder, infanticide, manslaughter and rape. It is suggested that violence was never far below the surface of the small, close-knit communities of rural Berkshire, yet it was not indiscriminate. Recorded theft was also examined and there was a considerable increase in prosecutions during the period. Convictions for petty larceny were particularly large. Factors which might have been responsible for this increase in recorded crime were examined and so too was the process of detection, apprehension and conviction. Justices of the Peace, although diligent, prudent and severe when required to be, were too few in number and too widely scattered throughout the county to be entirely effective. Personal initiative was found to be an important and integral part of the fight against crime. Litigants predominated amongst the middling groups in rural society, yet labourers did use the law, albeit when informal arbitration and sanctions had failed. It is suggested that they initially depended on "community justice" to resolve their differences.
Supervisor: Not available Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available
Keywords: Eighteenth century crime