Shoplifting in Eighteenth-Century England

Shoplifting in Eighteenth-Century England

Shelley Tickell

Paperback
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Boydell Press

Overview

Overview

As a new consumer culture took root in eighteenth-century England and shops proliferated, the crime of shoplifting leaped to public prominence.
Shoplifting in Eighteenth-Century England examines the nature and impact on society of this commercial crime at a time of rapid retail expansion during the long eighteenth century. As a new consumer culture took root in eighteenth-century England and shops proliferated, the crime of shoplifting leaped to public prominence. In 1699 shoplifting became a hanging offence. Yet whether compelled by need or greed, shoplifters continued to operate in substantial numbers on the shopping streets of London and provincial towns. Treated initially as a crime of the immoral poor, the eighteenth century witnessed a transformation in the public perception and understanding of such customer theft, signalled by the shocking arrest of Jane Austen's wealthy aunt for shoplifting in 1799.
This book shows, through systematic profiling of those who committed the crime, that shoplifting was primarily a crime of the poor and predominantly an opportunist one. Drawing on court records from London and the north of England, the book also demonstrates that the extent of its practice was disguised by the reluctance of many shopkeepers to prosecute. Providing both quantitative analysis and engaging insights into real-life stories, the book describes the variable strategies adopted by shoplifters to raid elite and poorer stores, the practical responses of shopkeepers to this predation and the financial impact on their businesses. It investigates the trade lobbying that led to the passage of the Shoplifting Act, the degree to which retailers co-operated with the judiciary and their engagement with the capital law reform movement of the later eighteenth century. The book examines the range of goods stolen and addresses questions of whether this form of theft was driven by consumer desire, suggesting that more subtle social and economic motives were at work.

SHELLEY TICKELL is Visiting Research Fellow at the University of Hertfordshire.

Details

August 2018
9 black and white, 8 line illustrations
240 pages
23.4x15.6 cm
People, Markets, Goods: Economies and Societies in History
ISBN: 9781783273287
Format: Paperback
Boydell Press
BIC HBLL, 1DBKE, 2AB, 3JF
BISAC HIS015000, HIS037050
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Table of Contents

Introduction
Customer Thieves
The Extent of the Crime
Shoplifting in Practice
What was Stolen
The Impact on Retailers
Retailers' Recourse to Law
Public Attitudes to the Crime
Conclusion
Bibliography

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