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Title: Crime and economies of makeshift : experiences of poverty in the Old Bailey, 1750-1799
Author: Huggins, L. E.
ISNI:       0000 0004 7655 4368
Awarding Body: University of Sheffield
Current Institution: University of Sheffield
Date of Award: 2019
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The labouring poor of eighteenth-century London adopted many strategies to meet their material needs. These economies of makeshift included parish relief, begging, borrowing, kinship support, and sometimes crime. Property crime has long been linked to poverty, but little is known about the strength, or the extent, of the relationship and how people used theft as part of their makeshift economies and why they resorted to it. To better understand the relationship between crime and poverty, and how that relationship worked, this dissertation examines the experiences of defendants who were tried at the Old Bailey between January 1750 and December 1799. Investigating individual experiences enables this dissertation to analyse causal links between prosecutions and poverty through defendants' own words and explanations, as well as those explanations of other court actors who were involved in the trials. By combining quantitative and qualitative methodologies, using digital techniques, and building upon the research and insights of linguistic scholars and historians of both crime and the labouring poor, this study investigates the human narratives behind the crime statistics in London. Exploring the narratives found in the Old Bailey Proceedings and analysing them alongside other sources, including parish poor relief records, The Accounts of the Ordinary of Newgate, record collections of the Digital Panopticon, and contemporary literature, this dissertation demonstrates that property crime was sometimes a strategy for coping with day-to-day poverty, as well as extraordinary events and personal crises, but the relationship remains complex and dependant on a range of factors. In some cases, Londoners stole because other strategies failed or were inaccessible, exclusionary, or impractical. In other cases, people routinely stole to get by from one day to the next. By investigating theft through the experiences of defendants, this study confirms that crime was part of a makeshift economy for some plebeian Londoners, and it explains how and why that was.
Supervisor: Shoemaker, Robert ; Moses, Julia Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available