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Night RaidersBurglary and the Making of Modern Urban Life in London, 1860-1968$
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Eloise Moss

Print publication date: 2019

Print ISBN-13: 9780198840381

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: July 2019

DOI: 10.1093/oso/9780198840381.001.0001

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Introduction

Introduction

Chapter:
(p.1) Introduction
Source:
Night Raiders
Author(s):

Eloise Moss

Publisher:
Oxford University Press
DOI:10.1093/oso/9780198840381.003.0010

Until 1968, burglary was defined both legally and culturally as an extraordinary form of theft occurring between the ‘night-time’ hours of nine p.m. and six a.m., entwining the crime with visions of a shadowy, nightmarish nocturnal cityscape. Juxtaposing the horror of victims with the glamorous, sexy breed of ‘gentleman’ burglar gracing international cinema screens in phenomenally successful films such as Raffles (1939), the Introduction explores the vastly contradictory responses to the crime during the period 1860 and 1968. Encompassing not only fear-mongering accounts of the crime, but also those designed to excite, to challenge preconceptions, and to entertain, it maps out how these conflicting versions of burglary and burglars articulated broader social, political, and economic concerns. These included: the advent of mass literacy and growing demand for stories of crime that reflected the concerns of an audience of diverse class, age, and gender; the commercial imperatives of the insurance and entertainment industries as the middle classes expanded, including the development of household insurance and the popularity of the ‘true crime’ genre; the backlash against the evolving women’s movement and its alignment with new forms of criminality; and the evolution of new modes of policing and regulation, particularly forensic science. Following social surveyor Charles Booth’s observation that burglary was London’s ‘most characteristic crime’ in the early 1900s, the Introduction examines how the metropolis became peculiarly identified with burglars’ most daring exploits—and how the city itself was transformed by its association with the crime.

Keywords:   theft, crime fiction, domesticity, Raffles, London, victimization, press, night

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