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Chapter 1 - The Scale of Incarceration

Debt and the Middling Sort

from Part I - Structures of Insecurity

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  27 September 2019

Tawny Paul
Affiliation:
University of California, Los Angeles
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Summary

Chapter 1 outlines the legal process of incarceration and the demographics of Britain’s debtors’ prisons, drawing on case studies from London, Edinburgh and Lancaster. It reveals that incarceration for debt was a routine practice rather than an exceptional experience. Britain was home to a substantial population of people living on a thin line between competency and failure. Middling people were especially vulnerable. A middling man in eighteenth-century England had a one in four chance of going to prison during his lifetime. Imprisonment affected their households, neighbourhoods and business networks, so that the impact of incarceration rippled through middling communities. The chapter argues that middling vulnerability was shaped by the legal system, which failed to protect individuals with middle levels of wealth and middle-size debts. While processes of bankruptcy and petty debt courts provided a means of negotiating the largest and the pettiest debts, the population of tradespeople with middle-sized debts, as both creditors and debtors, were underserved by the legal process. Arrest became the most expedient means for creditors to enforce simple debts.

Type
Chapter
Information
The Poverty of Disaster
Debt and Insecurity in Eighteenth-Century Britain
, pp. 31 - 66
Publisher: Cambridge University Press
Print publication year: 2019

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  • The Scale of Incarceration
  • Tawny Paul, University of California, Los Angeles
  • Book: The Poverty of Disaster
  • Online publication: 27 September 2019
  • Chapter DOI: https://doi.org/10.1017/9781108690546.002
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  • The Scale of Incarceration
  • Tawny Paul, University of California, Los Angeles
  • Book: The Poverty of Disaster
  • Online publication: 27 September 2019
  • Chapter DOI: https://doi.org/10.1017/9781108690546.002
Available formats
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Save book to Google Drive

To save content items to your account, please confirm that you agree to abide by our usage policies. If this is the first time you use this feature, you will be asked to authorise Cambridge Core to connect with your account. Find out more about saving content to Google Drive.

  • The Scale of Incarceration
  • Tawny Paul, University of California, Los Angeles
  • Book: The Poverty of Disaster
  • Online publication: 27 September 2019
  • Chapter DOI: https://doi.org/10.1017/9781108690546.002
Available formats
×