Applying his talent for colorful biography to chronicle an entire age, Thomas shows us an underworld through the eyes of its inhabitants. Defined by night houses and cigar divans, populated by street people like the running-patterer with his news of murder, and entertainers like the Fire King, the underworld was an insular yet diffuse community, united by its deep hatred of the police. In its gin shops and taverns, thrived thieves and beggars, cheats, forgers, and pickpockets, preying on rich and poor alike.
Career criminals often showed a craftsmanship that would put their descendants to shame. It took true professionals to remove the modern equivalent of twenty million dollars from the Bank of England. In one case, conspirators even recruited officers from Scotland Yard.
Those who failed in such enterprises found themselves in the convict hulks, where the annual mortality rate might reach 40 percent, or in the new prisons, their faces masked and identified only by numbers. Rich in anecdote and vividly recounted, The Victorian Underworld brings the past alive like few recent works of history.
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Through these and other sources, Thomas covers the environs of working-class criminals (sometimes known as “the poor who fought back”), from the slums of Whitechapel and the tenements of “The Devil’s Acre” in Westminster, colloquially called “rookeries” and “rabbit-warrens.” These firsthand accou...| Read Full Review of The Victorian Underworld
In the last 25 years or so the social history of crime, and more recently of juvenile delinquency, has taken enormous strides both in Britain and elsewhere.| Read Full Review of The Victorian Underworld
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