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Title: Shoplifting in eighteenth-century England
Author: Tickell, Shelley Gail
ISNI:       0000 0004 5354 2305
Awarding Body: University of Hertfordshire
Current Institution: University of Hertfordshire
Date of Award: 2015
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Shoplifting proliferated in eighteenth-century England with retail expansion, acquiring a new prominence as it was made a capital crime. This study comprehensively examines this phenomenon, seating it within the historiographies of crime, marketing and consumption. The majority of offenders were occasional thieves, drawn from some of the most economically vulnerable sectors of plebeian communities, their profile confirming the significance of age and gender. While specialist shops were shoplifters' primary target, particularly those selling textiles and clothing, a spatial analysis suggests that thieves preferred smaller, local shops to their more prestigious counterparts. Shoplifters matched their tactics to the size and status of shop, using performance as a tool to achieve their ends. Yet the study questions assumptions around the influence of fashion and consumer desire on shop theft, discussing how the type and quantity of goods stolen points to more complex economic motives, both financial and social. The potential impact of the crime on women's role as shopkeepers and the tendency to sexualise female offenders are also scrutinised. While retailers were initially instrumental in driving legislative change and worked constructively with magistrates to control the crime's incidence, their constant reluctance to prosecute conveys a false impression of the crime's true extent. The study calculates prevalence, and projects the financial impact of shoplifting on its victims at a time of highly competitive retailing. 'Risk-based' in their thinking, retailers developed practical means of protecting their stores, while new marketing techniques proved variously a boon and handicap. Yet shopkeepers' reactions were not uniform, some apparently preferring such situational prevention, while others turned more readily to the law. This ambivalence was also exhibited in their engagement with the capital law reform that ultimately saw the repeal of the Shoplifting Act. Employing a variety of sources from court transcripts to literature, the study finally explores how changing social perspectives on crime during the period coloured public attitudes to shoplifting, foreshadowing reconfigured nineteenth-century perceptions of the crime.
Supervisor: Not available Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available
Keywords: shoplifting ; crime ; retailing ; consumption ; eighteenth century ; London ; Northern England