First Locality and Region Seminar in 2013 on Tuesday 8th January

8 January, 2013 - 17:15
The Court Room, Senate House, University of London


Crime in 18th-century Bristol: situating theft within the urban milieu : paper by Dr Matthew Neale


Matt Neale is a graduate student in the Centre for Urban History, Leicester University. His thesis examines theft in 18th-century Bristol, and considers the ways that crime, investigation and justice were shaped by the urban environment and by the governmental structures of the city. His interests include subjects such as the relationship between crime and social activity, the circulation of stolen goods, theft and maritime trade, and the work and effectiveness of the night-watch. He was a junior fellow of the IHR 2011-12.

This paper argues that there were significant variations in the nature and experience of crime within the pre-modern city. It seeks to examine the causes of these variations, and proposes some ways that we may examine the agency which urban space had over acts of theft. It does this by examining crime as reported in the depositions (crime reports) produced before Bristol's magistrates in the late 18th century, sources complemented by the study of the civic response to crime, which is documented in a rich collection of administrative records. While historians have long recognised the differences between urban and rural criminality, this paper argues that the study of the spatial and temporal variations in crime which occurred within the city is an important task if we are to understand the dynamics of theft in the pre-modern town.