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Title: The Irish, crime and disorder in Chester, 1841 to 1871
Author: Peavitt, Helen Thais
ISNI:       0000 0001 3481 9477
Awarding Body: University of Liverpool
Current Institution: University of Liverpool
Date of Award: 1999
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This thesis set out to examine the relationship between the Irish, crime and disorder within the context of a small mid-Victorian city, namely Chester. In particular, four main areas of concern have been addressed. First, the pattern and nature of Irish criminality was examined with reference to the Quarter Sessions and Assize statistics and to the evidence provided from the Petty Sessions. It was determined that the Irish in Chester were indeed over-represented in the criminal statistics, but that this overall picture needed to be qualified. In general the evidence would appear to confirm the general findings of the Royal Commission on the State of the Irish Poor in that Irish criminality in Chester was concentrated in the less serious categories of crime. More specifically the analysis revealed their over-representation amongst petty theft, assault and public order statistics. However, the relationship between the Irish and disorder was found to be more problematic. Although Irish men and women took part in disorders these were far from commonplace, and mainly took the form of intracommunal disorders. Whilst there was some evidence of inter-communal tensions, these were found to be operating at a low level, and as such the pattern of disorders in Chester offers a significant contrast to the pattern of Irish disorder in Liverpool at this time. Second, the thesis sought to examine the extent to which the Irish were perceived as a policing problem, and within this context to examine the hypothesis that the police were guilty of anti-Irish prejudice and policing. There was found to be little explicit evidence of anti-Irish policing in the city. Moreover, whilst the Irish were seen to proffer a threat to law and order, this was within the bounds of contemporary concerns with public order and the working class in general. However, it was also evident that the Chester Irish resented increased police surveillance and this was reflected in a rise in the number of assaults on Police Constables in the 1860s. Significantly, this took place at a time when the Chester Police Force was extending its remit over working-class activities in general. Third, recent research has suggested that the Irish were also overrepresented in the statistics of committals to prison. The Chester evidence corroborated this, although it was found that the degree of overrepresentation was relatively low. Part of this over-representation was explained by the greater presence of the Irish in convictions for petty theft. They were therefore more likely to be committed to trial for offences for which a conviction could be obtained. Similarly, it was observed that a higher percentage of Irish were tried under the Criminal Justice Act, and this also served to increase the number sentenced to prison. Finally, the thesis sought to examine to what extent the Chester Irish were perceived as a social problem or as a criminal element in society. It was found that the Chester Irish were not perceived to be inherently criminal. Rather, local concern about the Irish influx of the 1840s stemmed from their perceived influence on public health, poverty and begging and vagrancy. Overall, the study determined that the relationship between the Irish, crime and disorder was complex, both confirming some contemporary popular images of the Irish and confounding others.
Supervisor: Not available Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
Keywords: Cheshire