The Changing Complexion of Crime in Nineteenth Century England

2046 Words 9 Pages
The Changing Complexion of Crime in Nineteenth Century England

Crime during the nineteenth century in England, was being redefined as industrialization and urbanization increased. The social ramifications of overcrowding, poverty, immigration, and a growing disparity between rich and poor created new and inventive kinds of crime. As London approached the 1840's crime increased to new heights and the community reacted accordingly. The metropolitan police, although established in 1829, began to expand and change its role due to increasing stratification of crime (1).

By the 1840's larceny, whether breaking into houses or pickpocketing, was the most prevalent crime (2). As a direct result of this , houses and property were
…show more content…
In Oliver Twist Dickens uses crime as a manifestation of the social stratification in London. Since breaking into houses was the second highest crime after pickpocketing. The mere idea of Sikes planning and executing a robbery was fairly typical of the time. Looking at it from our perspective it seems a fantastic crime, but in reality, "highway robberies, burglaries, and housebreaking occur most frequently in the suburbs" (4). Most of the housebreaks, however, were committed by servants, or people familiar with the people of the house. but again, it may be that sensationalism make for Dickens, makes for better reading the reality.

Several other aspects of Dickens' novel deserve special notice. Dickens' representation of the trial system was an accurate representation. For instance, when Oliver is taken into custody he is never allowed to speak. When standing trial he is sick, and the judge dismisses his silence as an act of noncompliance. This is probably the most realistic aspect of the Dickens' novel. At the time the novel portrays the trial courts consisted of the magistrate, the police, and the prosecutor. Most noticeably missing is the defense lawyer. In fact Dickens makes a good point when he writes, "The offense had been committed within the district, and indeed in the immediate neighborhood of, a very notorious metropolitan police office" (5). Once arrested by the

Related Documents