Family Research – English, Scottish and Irish Genealogy


The Idea of Juvenile Crime in 19th-century England

Heather Shore challenges the view that the 19th century was a pivotal period of change in the treatment of young offenders In recent years the ‘problem’ of juvenile crime in Britain has come increasingly into view in the political and media orbit.

For many commentators, youthful delinquency is evidence of a decline in morality, the erosion of the family, and the insidious impact of popular culture, in particular television and video. Fashion, the street, music, and American cultural influences all play their part in the moulding of ideas about the juvenile offender of today. High profile cases involving children, such as the killing of the toddler James Bulger by two boys in Liverpool in 1993, the teenage burglar who lived in the heating ducts of flats in Newcastle prosaically nicknamed Rat-boy in the same year, and the recent rash of gun-related killings by youths in the United States, have provoked a litany of articles and editorials on how modern children are out of control. Yet it is a truism that juvenile crime and the petty, or not so petty, delinquencies of youth have been a central concern in society from time immemorial. For example, a school of crime to teach young boys to cut purses and become ‘judicial nyppers’ was described by the Recorder of London, William Fleetwood, in 1585. In the seventeenth century, Michael Dalton wrote about the legal status of child offenders in his book, The Countrey Justice, Conteyning the Practise of the Justices of the Peace out of their Sessions…(1618).

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