Crime, Policing, and Punishment in Early Modern London

EIU His 5400.001 [60032], Summer 2013, Newton Key
9:00-11:30 M, W, Coleman 2750
Syllabus as pdf (brief version)
How have historians used the Online Old Bailey Sessions Papers and other records of crime and punishment in order to reveal hidden worlds of the London cosmopolis in the 17th and 18th centuries? Two central texts help us comprehend the largest city in Europe by 1700 and envision living on the “street.” Additional readings help us understand riot, social crime, early modern justice system, and policing before the Bobbies. We will use our learned knowledge of navigating the metropolis and the legal procedures as well as the analytical language of social and legal historians to help show how records of the trials and punishments of criminals caught can reveal London worlds and underworlds. Course is a hybrid with several of the in-class meetings replaced by a-synchronous discussion and class blogging (submissions eiu online, d2l, unless noted).

Available from Textbook Services:

  • Bucholz/Ward. Bucholz, Robert O. and Joseph P. Ward. London: A Social and Cultural History, 1550-1750. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2012. [17.916]
  • Hitchcock. Hitchcock, Tim. Down and Out in Eighteenth-Century London. London: Continuum, 2007. [17.917]
  • McKeon. Michael McKeon, The Secret History of Domesticity: Public, Private, and the Division of Knowledge (The Johns Hopkins University Press, 2006) [17.502]



week 1. Introducing London: Why study the history of cities? Of criminals? Of the poor?

  • 10 June. Bucholz/Ward, introduction.
  • 12 June. Bucholz/Ward, chs. 1-3; Wrigley, “Simple Model of London’s Importance.”


Hollar, Royal Exchange (1644)

week 2. Mapping London

  • 17 June. Bucholz/Ward, chs. 5-7; Archer, “Social Networks in Restoration London.”
  • 19 June. Bucholz/Ward, ch. 9; Kyle, “Afterword: Mapping London.” Mapping Project due.

Visscher, London panorama (1616, detail)

week 3. Policing London

  • 24 June. Mapping Project paper due. Consult re: paper/final project.
  • 26 June. McLynn, “Introduction,” “London,” “Law Enforcement”; Harding, “The Age of Improvisation, 1642-1789.” Beattie, “Introduction: the Crime Problem” (part).


Old Bailey Sessions House (1750)

week 4. Being Poor in London

  • 1 July. Hitchcock, intro. & chs. 1-3.
  • 3 July. Hitchcock, chs. 4-7; Discussion with Bob Bucholz (chs. 6-7).


Cries of London (18th cent. playing cards)

week 5. Narrating the London Poor
The Fortunate Transport (1741)

week 6. Staging Punishments

  • no seminar meeting this week
  • 19 July (Fri. D2L online discussion room, normal time). Shoemaker, “Shaming Punishments”; King, “Rituals of Punishment.” Historiography due.

Daniel Defoe in the pillory

week 7. The Mob, Riots, and Social Crime

  • 22 July. Shoemaker, “Crowds and Riots”; Wales, “Thief-Takers and their Clients.”
  • 24 July. Sharpe, “Criminal Orders,” Griffiths, “Meanings of Nightwalking.”

William Hogarth, from Hudibras (1725/6)

week 8. Reporting/Narrating Crime

  • 29 July. Reports
  • 31 July. Reports
Jonathan Wild and angry Londoners on the way to his execution (1725)

requirements, papers, and exams

office hours
last modified on July 3, 2013