University of Leicester
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Property Crime in Late Eighteenth-Century Bristol: Contexts of Theft in the Pre-Modern City

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posted on 2013-01-11, 11:33 authored by Matthew Paul Neale
This thesis examines property crime in the city of Bristol, in south-west England, between 1770 and 1800. It uses documents produced by the city’s magistrates, and the records of its civic administration, to study the locations and socio-cultural contexts of theft. There are several arguments which weave through this material. Firstly, it is argued that the city was a location of distinctive social structures and institutions, which shaped the ways that crime occurred. It considers the circulation of stolen goods and the manner in which the city was policed, particularly in relation to the impact that this had on offenders’ behaviour. Secondly, this thesis argues that the nature of theft was highly contingent on its context. The ways in which thefts from houses, ships, alehouses and shops were mutually distinctive are illustrated. The chapters on alehouses and stolen goods markets also attempt to evaluate the importance of social connections to acts of crime, and to consider the place of crime within plebeian culture. The study of crime can, therefore, be a lens through which we can examine the economic and social life of the pre-modern city. Furthermore, it is not just thieves who are the focus of study in this thesis: victims’ responses to crime, and the extent to which crime was an important factor in the organisation of their everyday lives, are issues which are critically considered. Finally, this thesis aims to provide a study of provincial crime which can be compared to previous historians’ studies of other places such as London. While this inevitably produces a story in which there are both continuities and differences, it is ultimately argued that the notion of ‘the city’ presents a useful category for the analysis of crime.



Sweet, Rosemary; Kidambi, Prashant

Date of award


Awarding institution

University of Leicester

Qualification level

  • Doctoral

Qualification name

  • PhD



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