‘Now we have the Informing Dogs!’: Crime Networks and Informing Cultures in the 1720s and 1730s



The criminal career of Jonathan Wild, executed at Tyburn on 24 May 1725, has for many commentators become a fixed point in the history of the underworld.2 Wild was a criminal, an informer, a thief-taker and a thief-maker; a man who artfully navigated the entrepreneurial justice system of the early eighteenth century. Our knowledge of Wild’s activities is shaped by the long repetition of his story in the print culture that he was said to have courted.3 His most thorough biographer, Gerald Howson noted, ‘Certainly he resembled the gangster of the twentieth century more closely than he did his famous contemporaries in Europe … He was the first criminal to become a “celebrity” …’.4 Indeed, Wild’s story is frequently re-imagined through the lens of later twentieth-century gang culture (in itself a constructed narrative), which reframes Wild as an eighteenth-century criminal mastermind.5 In this chapter I am less concerned with the reiteration of his story and more with the significance of the era as one in which Wild and his associates were able to thrive, and in which the ‘underworld’ narrative would find a more stable niche.


Criminal Justice Criminal Network Grand Jury Early Eighteenth Century Criminal Gang 
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Copyright information

© Heather Shore 2015

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Leeds Beckett UniversityUK

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