During the sixteenth century a new genre of popular literature arrived in England. Adapted from literature that was flourishing in Spain, a stream of printed books and pamphlets shined a light on the seedy underworld in England’s capital city. The genre — Rogue Literature.
Written in Early Modern English, The Black Dogge of Newgate begins as a long poem and was allegedly written by one Luke Hutton (d.1598). Hutton was a highwayman who robbed someone on St Luke’s Day in 1598, was captured, and subsequently hanged. It was said that ‘he feared not men nor laws’.
As part of pandemic poetry season we present Thomas Nashe (1567–1601) who was an Elizabethan poet, playwright, and fiction author and wrote a poem during an outbreak of plague.
Although Wat Tyler’s rebellion failed, the story was retold in plays, poetry, novels, and the rebels’ names were used as aliases in protests through the ages—this post looks at the first every play written about the events of the Peasants’ Revolt.
Ratsey was a hardened offender who disdained honest work and turned to crime to live extravagantly. Little did he know that the account his life, a pamphlet titled “The Life of Gamaliel Ratsey” (1605) kick-started the “true” crime genre of popular literature.
Adam Bell, Clim of the Clough, and William of Cloudesley were outlaws who were as famous as Robin Hood. Now they’re entirely forgotten!
The History of Thomas Walsingham’s Historia Anglicana traced through Reappearances of Jack Straw’s Last Dying Speech
How do certain ‘facts’ about one of the major events of English history get forgotten? Between 1715 and 1863, one such fact which people forgot was a dying confession made by Jack Straw, ahero of the Peasants’ Revolt.
Pierce Egan’s “Quintin Matsys” is like the Belgian “Les Miserables”; the people of Antwerp rise up and take to the barricades to overthrow the evil aristocrats who oppress them.
“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.”
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.
My book on Wat Tyler in medieval and post-medieval literature is now available for preorder on Amazon!
Throughout history, art depicting the law and justice helped to legitimise the power of the courts
I have recently been contracted by a commercial publisher to write a popular history book entitled “The Mob Reformer: The Life and Legend of Wat Tyler” which is due for publication in 2018.
The first rogue novel entitled “Lazarillo de Tormes” was published in Spain in 1554. Taking for its subject socially marginal protagonists, it kickstarted a genre which would lead ultimately to the birth of the novel.
In 1867 William Knipe authored “The Criminal Chronology of York Castle” – the most comprehensive survey of crime in Yorkshire from the medieval period to the Victorian era.
Crime historians often pay little regard to medieval outlaw literature, but my paper aims to use the history of crime in the early modern period to add a new context to their study. The ballad A Lytell Geste of Robyn Hode was first printed in the early sixteenth century. Around the same time also we see other outlaw ballads printed such as Adam Bell, Clim of the Clough, and William of Cloudesly (c.1530). My paper explores one reason why the figure of the outlaw hero became popular in print during the sixteenth century. Could it be that the idealisation of the outlaw occurred during the sixteenth century because another, more sinister criminal figure was also emerging in print: the ‘rogue’? Whilst outlaws such as Robin Hood were ‘curteyse’ and ‘dyde pore men moch god’, the figure of the rogue was more menacing. The word ‘rogue’ was first coined in 1561. Unlike the relatively good greenwood outlaw who lived apart from mainstream society, however, rogues were part of it, describing somebody who would rob, cheat, and swindle people indiscriminately, all the while effecting the disguise of a law-abiding citizen. Thus there was a need for people to believe in a good outlaw, because real-life offenders were ultimately more menacing. Hence the proposed paper explores the dichotomy between outlaws and rogues in print, in the process highlighting how changes in the nature of crime in the early modern period might have affected medieval outlaw myths.
A forthcoming public talk to be delivered at Pontefract Castle on 8 May 2016.
The word ‘rogue’ was not invented until the 1560s.
Criminal biographers were so committed to historical accuracy that they gave us The Life of the notorious highwayman, Sir John Falstaff.
In 1863 a reporter decided to experience what it was like to spend Christmas Day amongst the felons in Newgate.
Did any women ever rob people in the 17th and 18th centuries?
Recidivism…refers to a person’s relapse into criminal behavior, often after the person receives sanctions or undergoes intervention for a previous crime.
“A Lytell Geste of Robyn Hode” (c.1450): Alleviating the Fear of Crime in Late Medieval & Early Modern England?
Did people *need* the myth of a good outlaw?
In the 16th century there was an understanding among some thinkers that Christ may have died on a simple wooden stake or tree, rather than a two beam cross, and similarly the Geste of Robyn Hode makes reference to “Cryst that dyed on a tree”.