Thinking of theft
.18 century criminal life was celebrated in john gay’s beggar’s opera, the beggars opera was first
performed in London on janruary 29 , 1728 and it was performed nearly every year until the 1880s,
john gay (1685-1732) wrote the play as satire on Italian opera substituting criminals like macheath and
the peachums for upper-class characters. Peachums murder macheath for money and gets put In
.criminal rings focused on things with lots of value while individual people stole individual things they
wanted. Could steal to survive as well.
Theft as necessity
.protecting private property was one of the main aims behind the bloody code and theft was the most
commonly prosecuted offence at the old bailey in the 18 century. Attitudes to theft were impacted by:
changes in charity from 1740, population growth from 1750s, post-industrial growth from the 1760s
which led to poverty all of these rose theft and changed attitudes.
.Economy of makeshifts an idea that stated this is how people survived from keeping a private garden to
sell things, theft, looking after other people’s children, etc. to survive. The economy of makeshifts
.n 1740s charity changed from focus on a good Christian life and state shouldn’t be giving the charity but
individual people, life cycle poverty led to certain times of your life when you would need to dip into
charity like sickness, after having a baby, etc. you were never supposed to receive charity for all of your
life, in 1740s the idea of charity was focused instead of the state with the state focusing on not doing
charity for all of their lives and could make people become idle, funds were no longer doled out without
close supervision, charity is no longer given out indiscriminately. More members of the poor instead
focused on theft to meet ends meet.
.1750s population began to increase as the 1700-1750 focus on population growth. By the 1750s there
was a focus on population growth and restricting it.
.1760s industrialization led to unskilled jobs with low pay, entire segment of population lived below the
poverty line countering life cycle poverty as this was life long poverty.
.Starting In 1780s there was a large number of increases in numbers of theft peaking in 1800. People
were scared of theft increasing in 1780s but it actually was “crisis of theft”. Bread prices became
extremely high in the 1780s leading to high theft rates. Most theft was small scale (pickpocketing, petty
theft) and escaped the justice system. Prostitutes often picked the pockets of men they slept with. Most
pickpockets were young boys. Pickpocketing was crucial to the economy of makeshifts but it was
generally a crime the young were forced into by circumstances. The city was filled with young children
and poor families who had labour training didn’t necessarily have a job. Many women would abandon
their illegitimate children who would turn to crime. By end of the 19 century there was more
sympathy towards these pickpockets who needed to do it to survive
Mayhew’s accounts suggest that pickpocketing was: Gender: young women had an easier time securing charity, for young men pickpocketing was often the
only available option.
Often done with pride: like beggars pickpocketing believed their work was skilled
Often done in gangs: orphaned boys constructed surrogate fami