The original Goldilocks was a haggard old woman and a criminal vagrant who gets sent to prison for being up to no good.
Stephen Basdeo is a historian and writer based in Leeds, UK.
Criminality and Animal Cruelty in 18th-Century England
In 1824, the lawyer, Andrew Kapp, asked, “Do not these creatures, when they are bruised and wounded, shew an equal sense of pain with ourselves? Are not their shrieks and mournful cries, as so many, calls upon their tormentors for pity? And do not their dying pangs, and the painful convulsions of their tortured bodies, cause uneasiness in every human spectator?”
Visions of “Piers Plowman” in the 18th Century
Joseph Ritson stated that the poem was “a dull performance and scarcely merits the care of a modern impression.”
Passo di Lupo: An Italian Bandit
Contrary to stories of Robin Hood, an outlaw’s life was not a merry one: in the 1820s, banditry in Italy was rife; at this time, a young travel writer named Charles Macfarlane was touring the country and managed to obtain a rare interview with one of these brigands.
Mack the Knife: The “True” Story Behind the Song | Stephen Basdeo
By Stephen Basdeo. The popular song “Mack the Knife” was based upon the story of an eighteenth-century highwayman named Captain Macheath. This post traces the literary life of this fictional character.
The Last Dying Speech and Confession of Jack Straw
“We would have killed the king and driven out of the land all possessioners, bishops, monks, canons, and rectors of churches. We would have created kings, Walter Tyler in Kent and one each in other counties, and appointed them and we would have set fire to four parts of the city and burnt it down and divided all the precious goods found there amongst ourselves.”
Hang’d, Drawn, and Quartered! “Spectacular Justice” during the Medieval and Early Modern Period
Katherine Royer’s new book, “The English Execution Narrative, 1200-1700” (2015) analyses the meanings behind the often gruesome executions carried out in the medieval and early modern period.
Post-Apocalyptic Bandits: Mary Shelley’s “The Last Man” (1826)
The year is 2073, England is a republic, but an incurable disease is sweeping the earth, decimating its population.
An Early Socialist History of the Peasants’ Revolt: Charles Edmund Maurice’s “Lives of English Popular Leaders of the Middle Ages” (1875)
Charles Edmund Maurice was a Barrister, History Lecturer, and committed Christian Socialist. In 1875, he authored one of the first socialist histories of the rebellion of 1381.
Available for preorder: “The Life and Legend of a Rebel Leader: Wat Tyler” (2018)
My book on Wat Tyler in medieval and post-medieval literature is now available for preorder on Amazon!
Victor Hugo’s “The Last Day of a Condemned Man” (1829)
Last week Google celebrated the life of Victor Hugo (1802-85) with some quirky illustrations on its masthead, so I thought I would do the same by writing a post on an early novel by Hugo entitled “The Last Day of a Condemned Man” (1829), which explores the mindset of a man who is about to be hanged.
The First Robin Hood Novel: Robert Southey’s “Harold, or, The Castle of Morford” (1791)
In the archvies of the Bodleian Library, Oxford there is a hitherto neglected Robin Hood novel by Robert Southey entitled ‘Harold, or the Castle of Morford’ (1791). This post is a short introduction to this text.
Salvatore Giuliano (1922-1950): The Last Outlaw
Salvatore Giuliano was the last true outlaw in history. Known as the Robin Hood of Sicily, he stole from the rich to give to the poor.
‘The Prince of Pick-Pockets’: George Barrington (1755-1804)
Expelled from school after stabbing his classmate, G. Barrington became an actor, then a pickpocket, until he was transported to Botany Bay and died of insanity.
John Terry (d.1803): A Yorkshire Murderer
Wakefield, West Yorkshire, 1803, a 67 year old woman is murdered in her bed by John Terry, apprentice.
“The Bondman” (1833): Wat Tyler, Medievalism, and the Great Reform Act of 1832
Mrs. O’Neill’s story of the Peasants’ Revolt, all-but-forgotten now, reflects the political agitation leading up ot the passage of the Great Reform Act (1832)
In the 18th century, people asssumed that if you shunned work and acted like an idle apprentice, you would become a criminal.
Law, Crime, and Friendship: Sir Walter Scott and Thomas ‘Tam’ Purdie
Scott served as Sheriff of Selkirk, and in 1804, a man appeared before him in the dock charged with stealing from his land. But the law-giver and the offender instead became best friends.
When “Upperworld” and “Underworld” Meet: Social Class and Crime in “The Mysteries of London (1844-46)
Rich people commit greater crimes than their poorer counterparts, but they are at their most dangerous when members of the “upperworld” and “underworld” work together.
Martina Chapanay (1800-1887): An Argentinian Female Robin Hood
Martina Chapanay, a woman who led a gang of bandits in Argentina for upwards of 20 years.
Indicted for Publishing FAKE NEWS!!! The Trial of Alexander Scott
Given that the term “fake news” has recently been bandied around by some very prominent public figures on social media (hurled as a term of abuse at various media outlets, and usually in capital letters), I thought I might bring to people’s attention an interesting little court case from June 1778.
Book Review: “The Art of Law: Three Centuries of Justice Depicted” (2017)
Throughout history, art depicting the law and justice helped to legitimise the power of the courts
Oleksa Dovbush (1700-1745): Robin Hood of the Ukraine
Oleksa Dovbush was an outlaw/freedom fighter who robbed from the rich to give to the poor.
Thomas Dun: A Medieval Pirate & Highwayman
Robin Hood was not the only famous law breaker in medieval times. Alongside Robin Hood were figures such as Adam Bell and the subject of this blog post, the medieval pirate Thomas Dun.