Book Event in the Sun

A couple of weeks ago, while sunning myself on a beach somewhere, I was asked if I’d like to talk on the subject of crime and punishment in 18th Century England. I said I’d be delighted and, when around fifty people turned up at the hotel – whether to hear me or to drink the Champagne on offer, I couldn’t possibly say – I told them about London’s low-life before the age of police when the penalty for simple theft (larceny) was a lingering death at the end of a rope outside the prison gates – known then as the Newgate Dance. It seems strange to think there were well over 200 statutary offennces in Britain for which the penalty was death, at the end of the 18th Century while in revolutionary France, there were only six. The French also beat us to the creation of a police force by nearly 100 years. When we finally got round to having one (in 1829), the great British public rioted.

Life at the bottom end of British society at that time was grim. For the 15,000 or so men working in the Port of London, pay was routinely withheld by the gangmasters who employed them and they were encouraged to steal from the ships they were loading and unloading in lieu of pay. So prevalent was the practice that most believed that what they were taking was their lawful perquisites (perks). The coming of the first body of (privately funded) police 31 years before the formation of the Met was therefore a huge shock for those at the receiving end. The story of the formation of this force – the Thame Marine Police Institution – was the subject of my first book, The Watermen which I hope many of you will have enjoyed.

My new book – more of which later – is due out on 3rd April and, as with all my books, can be purchased direct from me as a signed edition. Of course, if you prefer, they are also available through all the usual retail outlefts






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