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The London Hanged: Crime and Civil Society…
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The London Hanged: Crime and Civil Society in the Eighteenth Century

by Peter Linebaugh

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Just about anyone, convicted and taken out immediately and hanged. ( )
  ShelleyAlberta | Jun 4, 2016 |
Peter Linebaugh's "The London Hanged" is an exceedingly well-done overview of the relation between proletarian crime and capital accumulation in the London boroughs of the 18th Century. Together with Marcus Rediker, Linebaugh is the primary Marxist historian of crime, political economy and civil society in this period, and his extensive research pays off - "The London Hanged" is, as the (Daily Mail!) review on the cover says, history as it should be written.

Linebaugh makes much use of the records of the hanged at Tyburn, as well as popular folk-tales about gangs, escaped convicts and trade records to build a clear picture of a London where extreme poverty and extreme violence, the latter from both the wealthy leaders of state and the urban poor, went together to enable the accumulation of capital. This sinister process of hangings for stealing a few shilling on one hand and corruption, slave trade and press gangs on the other hand is well described by Linebaugh in such terms as "Tyburnography" (after Tyburn where hangings were carried out) and "Thanatocracy".

The style of discussion of the subject is best described as narrative. Peter Linebaugh examines various aspects of the London life of those times in the successive chapters, blending anecdotes, statistics and jargon from those days into a powerful whole that leaves one with the impression of having been in London in those days as an investigative journalist. What additionally makes the research of this work so outstanding is the masterful way in which Linebaugh is able to use many different sorts of sources, from anonymous political pamphlets to the works of John Locke, showing the place of each in the ideology of the time and its relation to the underlying socio-economic developments. In this way he shows that historical materialism need not be a regurgitation of vague Marxist jargon, but is the most powerful tool for historical analysis of a whole society we have.

From corn manipulations to Levellers, from plantation lords to famous highwaymen, from black gang leaders to the Black Act, hogsheads and tobacco theft - this book reads as an adventure story and critique of political economy in one. The only possible downsides are the rather high degree of repetition inherent in the anecdotal nature of the work, and Linebaugh's tendency to pretentious terminology. Still, much recommended for anyone with historical interest. ( )
1 vote McCaine | Feb 2, 2007 |
18th century - why was there so much hanging, the way the courts worked, individual cases including, of course, jack sheppard. I read it in one go - a long trawl, but worth it. My dad, however, is "dipping in", so either seems to be a rewarding read. Uncovers/elucidates social injustice and manipulation of the law - so what's new?! ( )
  stro | Aug 12, 2006 |
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0521457580, Paperback)

In eighteenth-century London the gallows at Tyburn was the dramatic focus of a struggle between the rich and the poor. Most of the London hanged were executed for property crimes, and the chief lesson that the gallows had to teach was: 'Respect private property'. The executions took place amid a London populace that knew the same poverty and hunger as the condemned. Indeed, in this stimulating account Peter Linebaugh shows how there was little distinction between a 'criminal' population and the poor population of London as a whole. Necessity drove the city's poor into inevitable conflict with the laws of a privileged ruling class. Peter Linebaugh examines how the meaning of 'property' changed substantially during a century of unparalleled growth in trade and commerce, analyses the increasing attempts of the propertied classes to criminalize 'customary rights'--perquisites of employment that the labouring poor depended upon for survival--and suggests that property-owners, by their exploitation of the emergent working class, substantially determined the nature of crime, and that crime, in turn, shaped the development of the economic system. Peter Linebaugh's account not only pinpoints critical themes in the formation of the working class, but also presents the plight of the individuals who made up that class. Contemporary documents of the period are skilfully used to recreate the predicament of men and women who, in the pursuit of a bare subsistence, had good reason to fear the example of Tyburn's 'triple tree'.

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:12:32 -0400)

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