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Crime, Poverty, and Society in England

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Leonard Smith

on 29 April 2011

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Transcript of Crime, Poverty, and Society in England

“Noah was a charity-boy, but not a workhouse orphan. […] The shop-boys in the neighborhood had long been in the habit of branding Noah in the public streets with the ignominious epithets of ‘leathers,’ ‘charity,’ and the like; and Noah had borne them without reply. But now that fortune had cast in his way a nameless orphan, at whom even the meanest could point the finger of scorn, he retorted on him with interest. This affords charming food for contemplation. It shows us what a beautiful thing human nature is, and how impartially the same amiable qualities are developed in the finest lord and the dirtiest charity-boy.” (Dickens 44) “So, they established the rule, that all poor people should have the alternative (for they would compel nobody, not they,) of being starved by a gradual process in the house, or by a quick one out of it.” (Dickens 26) “This was far from being a place of doubtful character, for it had long been known as the residence of none but low and desperate ruffians, who, under various pretences of living by their labour, subsisted chiefly on plunder and crime.“ (Dickens 247) “For members of the criminal class crime was a bread-and-butter matter. When funds were low they went out to raise more, in the spirit of the frontiersman taking down his gun when the time came to fill the pot. They stood little chance of meeting their needs in any other way, for there is ample evidence that even those who wished to ‘go straight’ would have found it virtually impossible to do so.” (Tobias 152) “[Want] is recognised as a cause of crime for orphans, runaways and deserted children, for whom crime must often have been the only alternative to starvation. Homeless children were of course not the only ones to enter the criminal class. For many other children, too, their own or their parents’ poverty must often have been a cause of entry into a criminal life." (Tobias 153) “[It] may be said that, though lack of education was regarded as a cause of crime throughout the century, contemporaries were not always agreed that the effect of the schooling currently being provided was to reduce crime. The balance of opinion in 1816-18 was that the provision of further schools would help to reduce crime, both by direct effect on the children and by the indirect effect on their parents and others with whom they came into contact.” (Tobias 174) “The effect of housing conditions on crime was undoubtedly quite as important as contemporaries suggested. The towns could not provide enough homes for their rapidly growing populations, and bad housing was an aspect of that general degradation of the poor which helped to turn many youngsters into criminals.” (Tobias 178) “In the latter part of the 1850s contemporary opinion began to see a decline in the number of juvenile offenders, and looking back on that period from later years people saw it as a great watershed. There was a decisive drop in the number of juvenile offenders, a change in the character of juvenile crime and an end of the floating population of young vagrants, or at least a marked reduction in its size.” (Tobias 41) “[T]here was a continuing trend to less violence in crime over the century. [...] Throughout the century contemporaries accepted that criminals were becoming less violent, each generation seeing an improvement over the previous one.” (Tobias 122) “The high birth-rates and the high death-rates of the nineteenth century led inevitably to a high proportion of young people in the population. There were not sufficient jobs for all these youngsters. [...] The Poor Law did not - perhaps could not - provide adequate relief for all the children in need. In consequence, many youngsters had to find a living as best they could by begging or stealing.” (Tobias 244-245) “Among prostitutes in general, there can be little doubt that a great many were driven into the trade by the low wages and harsh conditions of so many of the industries open to women [... In] the nineteenth century those who studied the subject were largely agreed that many women became prostitutes from sheer necessity.” (Chesney 312) “[D]espite its risks and penalties, prostitution was, materially, an attractive trade for a girl who could get on top of the competition. Indeed, with the exception of the stage, it was the only way in which a woman without capital could reasonably hope to earn a substantial living by her own efforts.” (Chesney 317) "Of the estimated 80,000 people involved in prostitution in the UK, up to 5,000 children may be involved at any one time, with a female to male ratio of four to one. 80,000 women work in 'on-street' prostitution in the UK. The average age women become involved being just 12yrs old." ("Against Violence & Abuse") “The houses on either side were high and large, but very old; and tenanted by people of the poorest class. [...] A great many of the tenements […] which had become insecure from age and decay, were prevented from falling into the street by huge beams of wood which were reared against the tottering walls, and firmly planted in the road; but even these crazy dens seemed to have been selected as the nightly haunts of some houseless wretches, for many of the rough boards which supplied the place of door and window, were wrenched from their positions to afford an aperture wide enough for the passage of a human body. The kennel was stagnant and filthy; the very rats that here and there lay putrefying in its rottenness, were hideous with famine.” (Dickens 47) "[...] the parish authorities magnanimously and humanely resolved, that Oliver should be ‘farmed,’ or, in other words, that he should be despatched to a branch-workhouse some three miles off, where twenty or thirty other juvenile offenders against the poor-laws rolled about the floor all day, without the inconvenience of too much food, or too much clothing, under the parental superintendence of an elderly female who received the culprits at and for the consideration of sevenpence-halfpenny per small head per week.” (Dickens 20) "Income in London is more concentrated at the top than anywhere else in England. In Inner London in particular, 20% of people have 60% of the income." ("London's Poverty Profile") “There are, of course, serious problems with official statistics of crime. How far might they be massaged by the police forces that collect and collate them? We know, for example, that it was practice in the Metropolitan Police until the 1930s to list many reported thefts as lost property.” (Emsley) “Assuming that theft can be generated by economic hardship, the economic downswings of the second half of the nineteenth century were generally not as serious, widespread, or life threatening as those of preceding centuries. Violent behaviour was increasingly frowned upon, dealt with increasingly severely by the courts, and seems, in consequence, to have been brought under a greater degree of control.” (Emsley) "For London as a whole, the unemployment rate as measured by the Labour Force Survey (LFS) currently stands at 6.7%, significantly above the national average of 4.7%
The boroughs that currently come out worst in this analysis typically occupied similar positions ten or even twenty years ago, indicating the persistence of labour market under-performance." ("London's Place in the UK Economy, 2005-06") “Most offenders were young males, but most offences were petty thefts. The most common offences committed by women were linked to prostitution and were, essentially, 'victimless' crimes - soliciting, drunkenness, drunk and disorderly, vagrancy.” (Emsley) “By the beginning of Victoria's reign the Bloody Code of the eighteenth century had all but disappeared. Capital punishment only remained for murderers and traitors. Transportation to Australia had reached its peak in the early 1830s; to all intents and purposes it ended in the early 1850s, not least because of the increasing hostility of colonists in Australia who objected to their land being used as a dumping ground.” (Emsley) "A symptom of Tower Hamlets’ [poverty] situation is the poor nutrition of schoolkids: the borough has 42 fast food outlets per school, the highest in the country (compared with 25 for the UK as a whole), and a recent report suggested that some children are eating up to 16 takeaways each week." ("Londonist") “Most offenders brought before the courts were male. This suited Victorian perceptions of the separate spheres, and ensured that women brought before the courts, especially for violent offences, tended to be treated more harshly than men. Not only had they transgressed the law, they had also transgressed the perceptions of womanhood. “ (Emsley) “Many people could not afford the rents that were being charged and so they rented out space in their room to one or two lodgers who paid between twopence and fourpence a day.
Great wealth and extreme poverty lived side by side because the tenements, slums, rookeries were only a stones throw from the large elegant houses of the rich.” (Daniels) “Children were expected to help towards the family budget. They often worked long hours in dangerous jobs and in difficult situations for a very little wage. For example, there were the climbing boys employed by the chimney sweeps; the little children who could scramble under machinery to retrieve cotton bobbins; boys and girls working down the coal mines, crawling through tunnels too narrow and low to take an adult. Some children worked as errand boys, crossing sweepers, shoe blacks, and they sold matches, flowers and other cheap goods.” (Daniels) The Victorian Era “[M]any nineteenth-century comments on the causes of crimes have parallels in the present day. The people of the nineteenth century could see that poverty, the immediate pressure of want, was not, as it might at first sight have seemed, the only explanation or the most important explanation for crime, and that many stole who were not driven to it by the immediate pressure of necessity.” (Tobias 45) “[If] we are to look for a parallel in the field of crime with the England of the first 60 years of the nineteenth century, it is not to the England of the twentieth century that we should look, but to those countries that are today undergoing the experience of industrialisation and urbanisation.”(Tobias 49) "The man’s face was thin and very pale; his hair and beard were grizzly, and his eyes were bloodshot. The old woman’s face was wrinkled, her two remaining teeth protruded over her under lip, and her eyes were bright and piercing. Oliver was afraid to look at either her or the man, – they seemed so like the rats he had seen outside." (Dickens 47) "Child poverty is also more acute in London, with far more children in the lowest 10% of the income distribution and the highest rate of severe child poverty in the UK." ("London's Place in the UK Economy, 2005-06") "I never knew how bad she was, till the fever came upon her, and then her bones were starting through the skin. There was neither fire nor candle; she died in the dark – in the dark. She couldn’t even see her children’s faces, though we heard her gasping out their names. I begged for her in the streets, and they sent me to prison. When I came back, she was dying; and all the blood in my heart has dried up, for they starved her to death. I swear it before the God that saw it,– they starved her!" (Dickens 48) "The sun was rising in all his splendid beauty, but the light only seemed to show the boy his own lonesomeness and desolation as he sat with bleeding feet and covered with dust upon a cold door-step." (Dickens 61) "Families living in poverty have only £10 per person per day to buy everything they need . In contrast, the average household income in London is £44 per person per day - over 20% higher than the national average."
("London's Place in the UK Economy, 2005-06") "The UK has about 30,000 criminals who are members of organised crime gangs, and who cost the country up to £40bn a year, a report says." (BBC News) Modern London Sources Tobias, J. Crime and Industrial Society in the 19th century. 1st ed. London: B. T. Batsford LTD, 1967. Print. Chesney, Kellow. The Anti-Society: An Account of the Victorian Underworld. Boston: Gambit Incorporated, 1970. Print. Dickens, Charles. Oliver Twist. 1st ed. New York: W.W. Norton & Company, 1993. Print Emsley, Clive. "Crime and the Victorians." BBC. BBC, 17 02 2011. Web. 9 Apr 2011. <http://www.bbc.co.uk/history/british/victorians/crime_01.shtml>. Daniels, Barbara. "Poverty and Families in the Victorian Era." Hidden Lives Revealed. N.p., 2003. Web. 9 Apr 2011. <http://www.hiddenlives.org.uk/articles/poverty.html> Rees, Simon. "Daughters of the Twilight City." Historical Eye. N.p., 2003. Web. 9 Apr 2011. <http://www.historicaleye.com/Lost4.html>. United Kingdom. London's Place in the UK Economy, 2005-06. London: Corporation of London, 2005. Web. 9 Apr 2011. <http://www.cityoflondon.gov.uk/NR/rdonlyres/2CAE66FB-2DD5-41A5-B916-8FFC37276059/0/BC_RS_lpuk_0511_FR.pdf>. "Criminal gangs 'costing UK £40bn'." BBC News. BBC, 13 06 2009. Web. 9 Apr 2011. <http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/uk_news/8147890.stm> "Prostitution." Against Violence & Abuse. AVA, 2010. Web. 9 Apr 2011. <http://www.avaproject.org.uk/our-resources/statistics/prostitution.aspx> "Child Poverty Figures Make Grim Reading For London Boroughs." Londonist. Londonist, 23 02 2011. Web. 9 Apr 2011. <http://londonist.com/2011/02/child-poverty-figures-make-grim-reading-for-london-boroughs.php>. "Inequality." London's Poverty Profile. Trust for London, 2010. Web. 9 Apr 2011. <http://www.londonspovertyprofile.org.uk/indicators/topics/inequality/>. "More than half of women in prostitution have been raped and or seriously assaulted and at least 75% have been physically assaulted at the hands of the pimps and punters. 74% of women in prostitution identify poverty, the need to pay household expenses and support their children, as primary motivators for being drawn into prostitution." ("Against Violence and Abuse") "Up to 75% of women involved in prostitution began when they were under 18 years of age and most teenage prostitutes are involved in street prostitution, which is estimated to be ten times more dangerous than working from houses or flats." ("Against Violence and Abuse") "One of the defining features of London is that low incomes sit alongside very high incomes. While boroughs in Outer London tend to have either rich or poor wards, Inner London boroughs tend to have both rich and poor wards. For example, Haringey, in Inner London, is London's most divided borough. Its 19 wards contain four of the richest and five of the poorest wards in London." ("London's Poverty Profile") "Inner London is more divided than any other region in England. 19% of the population of Inner London are in the top tenth for income nationwide, measured after housing costs. 16% are in the bottom tenth of income. Though less markedly divided than Inner London, Outer London is also more divided than other English regions. 16% of its population are in the nationwide top tenth, and 14% are in the bottom tenth." ("London's Poverty Profile") "Despite London’s economic success over the last 15 years, there are still areas of significant weakness. In particular, London’s unemployment rate as measured by the Labour Force Survey has risen to 6.7%, significantly above the UK average of 4.7% and the highest of any Government Office Region other than the North East. Moreover, the employment rate – the proportion of the working age population that is in work – has remained on a downward trend over the last year." ("London's Place in the UK Economy, 2005-06") "London has been a key source of growth in the UK economy over the past decade. In this respect, London’s recent economic performance is in sharp contrast to the experience of much of the post-war period. For nearly 40 years London lost both people and jobs, much of it due to planned decentralisation. Even after the abandonment of such planning in 1977, the trend remained predominantly downward until 1993. The turnaround since then has been remarkable, and has transformed London’s place in
the UK economy." ("London's Place in the UK Economy, 2005-06") "Surprising as it seems today, London was until relatively recently a major industrial city. Thirty years ago, close to one in four workers in London were employed in manufacturing industry. One seventh of UK manufacturing production was also located in London, and manufactured products comprised London’s main source of export earnings. Since then, manufacturing output and employment have fallen greatly, as industry has contracted and decentralised." ("London's Place in the UK Economy, 2005-06") Crime, Poverty, and Society in Modern v. Victorian London
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