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‘A Noted Virago’: Moll Harvey and her ‘Dangerous Crew’, 1727–1738

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London’s Criminal Underworlds, c. 1720–c. 1930

Abstract

Gallows confessions and criminal biography provided eighteenth-century readers with unparalleled access to a version of criminal enterprise and confederacy. This unprecedented circulation of crime print culture enables historians to catch sight of the criminal through a series of interactions with justice, albeit a somewhat selective version of events.2 Through these interactions we can capture fragmentary evidence of plebeian Londoners negotiating the criminal justice system, dealing with law enforcers and experiencing sanctions such as the pillory, the House of Correction, transportation and the gallows. As Tim Hitchcock and Robert Shoemaker have argued, ‘the tactics of the poor and the criminal are in direct, imaginative and constructive dialogue with the institutions and individuals which administer criminal justice and poor relief’.3 Often, the most detailed criminal lives and most sustained connections with criminal justice come from those ‘notorious’ offenders whose lives end at Tyburn. However, other criminals, who were not amongst the condemned, gained a public and visible reputation through their encounters with the criminal justice system.4 Mary ‘Moll’ Harvey was such an individual. Between 1727 and 1732, she was as much an object of public curiosity as her fellow ‘criminals’, such as James Dalton, Mother Needham and the aristocratic rake Colonel Charteris.

Evening Post, 29 August 1730.

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Notes

  1. S. Devereaux (1996), ‘The City and the Sessions Paper: “Public Justice in London, 1770–1800”’, Journal of British Studies, 35, 4, pp. 466–503; S. Devereaux (2002), ‘The Fall of the Sessions Paper: Criminal Trial and the Popular Press in Late Eighteenth-Century London’, Criminal Justice History, pp. 57–88.

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  2. Daily Journal, 31 August 1730. On pre-modern gender and crime see J. M. Beattie (1975), ‘The Criminality of Women in Eighteenth-Century England’, Journal of Social History, 8, pp. 80–116;

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  4. F. Dabhoiwala (2012), The Origins of Sex: A History of the First Sexual Revolution (London: Allen Lane), p. 65;

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  6. On defining communities see A. Macfarlane, with S. Harrison and C. Jardine (1977), Reconstructing Historical Communities (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press), pp. 1–4;

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  7. see also, P. Withington and A. Shepard (2000), ‘Introduction: Communities in Early Modern England’, in Shepard and Withington , pp. 1–15.

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  8. OBP, December 1721, Mary Harvy and Ann Parker (t17211206–33); ‘Felons transported from London by the Gilbert, Capt. Darby Lux in January 1722 and registered in Annapolis in July 1722’, ‘London: Harvey alias Coates, Mary’, TNA: T53/29/451. P. W. Coldham (1988), The Complete Book of Emigrants in Bondage, 1614–1775 (Baltimore: Genealogical Publishing), p. 368.

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  13. F. Dabhoiwala (1995), ‘Prostitution and Police in London, c. 1660–1760’ (Oxford, Dphil.), pp. 191–2.

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  14. A. Wood (2006), ‘Subordination, Solidarity and the Limits of Popular Agency in a Yorkshire Valley, c. 1596–1615’, Past and Present, 193, pp. 41–72.

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© 2015 Heather Shore

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Shore, H. (2015). ‘A Noted Virago’: Moll Harvey and her ‘Dangerous Crew’, 1727–1738. In: London’s Criminal Underworlds, c. 1720–c. 1930. Palgrave Macmillan, London. https://doi.org/10.1057/9781137313911_3

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  • DOI: https://doi.org/10.1057/9781137313911_3

  • Publisher Name: Palgrave Macmillan, London

  • Print ISBN: 978-1-349-33845-0

  • Online ISBN: 978-1-137-31391-1

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