Published online by Cambridge University Press: 09 February 2009
In the last decade an area of urban history receiving increasing attention has been that of crime and, in particular, nineteenth-century crime. For those social scientists whose main interest is the study of lower-class life the study of crime has become increasingly fashionable. However, the study of crime is the study of the whole of society and the relationship of the various classes within that society. That law-makers create law-breakers is axiomatic and the study of crime is, therefore, not just the study of criminals but also of the institutions which defined them as criminals. For too long it has been implied that studying criminals is the study of a subset of lower-class life. This is a reflection of the fact that research is largely a middle-class occupation and so researchers bring to their work their own middle-class perception of society. The result is the automatic acceptance that crime consists purely of larceny, burglary, assault, rape and murder while overlooking the middle-class crimes of fraud, embezzlement, tax evasion, offences against the Companies Acts, Consumer Protection Acts and Factory Acts.
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12 Under the Youthful Offenders Act of 1854 magistrates were empowered to send children under sixteen years of age to a reformatory for a period of between two and five years.
13 Set up by the Habitual Criminals Act of 1869 which was annulled and partially reenacted by the Prevention of Crimes Act of 1871. The Register showed offence, sentence, name and aliases.
14 For example, larceny of goods worth more than five shillings following the Criminal Justice Act of 1855.
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