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Albion's Fatal Tree: Crime and Society in Eighteenth-Century England

4.08 of 5 stars 4.08  ·  rating details  ·  53 ratings  ·  11 reviews
In the popular imagination, informed as it is by Hogarth, Swift, Defoe and Fielding, the eighteenth-century underworld is a place of bawdy knockabout, rife with colourful eccentrics. But the artistic portrayals we have only hint at the dark reality. In this new edition of a classic collection of essays, renowned social historians from Britain and America examine the gangs ...more
Paperback, 402 pages
Published October 24th 2011 by Verso (first published 1975)
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Simon Wood

Since its 1975 publication "Albion's Fatal Tree" has been widely (though not universally) regarded as a classic of historical writing, in particular that branch of history that is known as "history from below". This 2011 edition from Verso corrects the lamentable situation where it has been out of print for a number of years. In addition to the unchanged text from its initial release, the three surviving members of the five original contributors (E.P. Thompson and John R
Ruru Ghoshal
The criminal law was a bourgeois product created to keep the proles in line. Suuuuuuuuure.

Douglas Hay says of prosecution that it "... was in the hands of the gentleman who went to law to evoke gratitude as well as fear in the maintenance of deference"("Property, Authority and the Criminal Law", p. 41). Of criminal trial, he says: "The nature of the criminal trial gave enormous discretion to men of property .. . [in addition to] the prosecutor" (ibid., p. 42). It was "a ruling-class conspiracy"
This was really nicely written, compiled and researched. The importance of this edited volume is that there are is a common theme running through each chapter. Other works I have read are badly edited with no theme, other than finding academics with free time and a half-written essay that could be tweaked for publication. The chapters, all discussing class and criminal justice, are all cogently written and well worth a read at your local library.
Martin Empson
This recently republished collection of essays is essential reading for anyone trying to understand how the British criminal justice system evolved, and how it was moulded into a system that protected wealth and private property, under the illusion of offering justice for all.

These essays, document the imposition of laws about wrecking, poaching and smuggling and other new crimes, and show how preparing for new capital relations impoverished the majority in the interest of the minority. But thes
Worth reading for the anecdotes of 18th Century English working class life alone. Of course, underlying the countless accounts of trials, shipwrecks, poachers, and bodies of hanged felons being touched for healing properties is an ambitious and coherent interpretation of how the era's criminal laws protected property and enforced class relations.

The introductory chapter/essay refers to forgeries as a growing problem for the period, and a crime by punishable by death. It would be interesting to s
Richard Spilman
My favorite history of the bizarre eighteenth century attitude toward crime in England. We all "know" that tens of thousands of people must have been executed during the eighteenth century, since nearly everything but sneezing was considered a capital crime. But the British combined such severities with a haphazard but equally generous system of pardons, which produced a populace both terrified and grateful to those who were terrifying them.
This book is a reprint of some very important essays in the legal and social history of the 18th century. They range from wrecking law to anonymous letters to smuggling to surgeons' riots. If you dig the 18th century and the history of criminal law, it's fascinating stuff. If you don't, well, this will be awfully dry going. I enjoyed it (there are ten sticky tabs stuck to the pages and I highlighted throughout).
Jane Walker
This is a reprint of a book first published in 1975. It's a collection of essays produced by a group of social historians at Warwick University, including E. P. Thompson. They examine what can be learned about the relationship between social classes through the sort of crime which brought rich and poor directly into conflict. Essential reading for any student of society.
Although over 40 years old, therefore, dated, the essays still stand up well to critical reading. For a couple of them, like Cal Winslow's on smuggling in Sussex, they are the only game in town. in terms of local history, they're pertinent materials for further study.
Seong Min
There was (probably still is) only a thin line between good and bad criminals. Proliferation of capital punishment in the eighteenth-century England made laws arbitrary, serving the interest of the propertied: an example of absurdity made practical.
William J. Shep
A good study, though a bit too Marxist for my taste, of crime in England.
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