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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


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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© 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.

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  • Print ISBN: 978-1-349-33845-0

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