The changing nature of crime in the nineteenth century
Various ways of classifying crime have been suggested. For example, Rudé deduces a threefold categorization from the cases he studied. To basic acquisitive crime, the temptation of greed and avarice to take another person’s possessions as your own, he adds survival crime, driven by the desperation of sheer need, and protest crime, the defiant act of breaching the law, not quietly and discreetly, but publicly and openly. More mundanely, the language of the lawyer differentiates the gravity of the offence committed, by distinguishing between misdemeanours and felonies. With the growth of an efficient police force, the very existence of law officers adds to the variety of offences: is it a crime “to resist and obstruct a constable in the execution of his duty”? Who is defining the concept, when even “acting suspiciously” could be seen as an offence? As late as 1869, the Habitual Criminals Act provided for a punishment of up to a year’s imprisonment for those deemed to be “suspicious persons”.
KeywordsNineteenth Century Criminal Behaviour Crime Statistic Workplace Misdemeanour Friendly Society
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