‘The pickpockets and hustlers had yesterday what is called a Grand Day’: Changing Street Theft, c. 1800–1850



In the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries established models of robbery and new definitions of pickpocketing combined in a form of street theft that fashioned novel ways of referring to the dangers of public streets. The writing of journalists and social investigators, the evidence of police, victims, witnesses and the accused, contributed to a shifting rhetoric of robbery. It was no longer solely the dark alleys and quiet dead ends in which danger lurked. Rather, the crowded thoroughfares of the developing metropolis presented the potential for daylight robbery. As one provincial journalist noted in 1820, ‘the state of the metropolis is become dangerous and disgraceful. There can be no concourse of people without the most atrocious robberies’.2 Street robbery has been the subject of a number of studies by historians who are interested in the relationship between violent street theft and the ways in which print culture has shaped the terminology and representations of such crimes. Whilst forms of street robbery have been a perennial feature of the urban criminal milieu, the visibility of the footpad, the highwayman and the garrotter reflect the periodic fusing of the forces of print culture, public anxiety and criminal justice policy: identifying them as ‘public enemies’.3 Through these various incarnations the robber has remained a significant and persistent actor in the underworld narrative.


Early Nineteenth Century Public Street Street Crime Criminal Justice Policy Violent Street 
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© Heather Shore 2015

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Leeds Beckett UniversityUK

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