“A few remarks on that abominable traffic, the SLAVE TRADE, which, to the disgrace of Europe, has not yet ceased to exist, although the efforts of England have been so long directed to its abolition.”
The Fine Art of Murder | Stephen Basdeo
“Something more goes to the composition of a fine murder than two blockheads to kill and be killed—a knife—a purse—and a dark lane. Design, gentlemen, grouping, light and shade, poetry and sentiment, are now deemed indispensable to attempts of this nature.”
Lines Written by a New York Homeless Woman
A thin shawl was drawn over her shoulders; her dress was ragged and worn, her face deathly pale…In her pocket was found the remnant of the crust, and a copy of verses printed on red paper.
Jack’s Story: The True Story of a Poor Boy in 19th-Century New York
“My father would smash everythin’ he could reach and knocked my mother round awful so I ran away.”
Gamaliel Ratsey (d.1605): The Man whose Life Kick-started the “True Crime” Genre
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.
Claude Du Vall: The Ladies’ Highwayman
As Du Vall approached the carriage he and looked into the window flashing his huge pistol, he exclaimed: “Those eyes of yours, madam, have undone me. I am captivated with that pretty good-natured smile.”
Bandits and Robbers of India
“I will warn him that he will not find my robbers such romantic, generous characters as those who occasionally figure in the fields of fiction. He will meet with men strangers to that virtue of robbing the rich to give to the poor. They give to the poor indeed, but it is as spies and instruments of their own crimes, or at least in order to avoid detection.” –Charles Macfarlane, 1833.
The Virgin and the Outlaw
In the earliest medieval poems, Robin Hood is devoted to the Virgin Mary. While this may seem odd, many thieves in medieval Europe had an attachment to her.
Jack ‘Sixteen-String’ Rann (1750–74)
“Do not be deceived: bad company corrupts good morals.” (1 Corinthians 15: 33, ASV)
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?”
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.
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.
In the 18th century, people asssumed that if you shunned work and acted like an idle apprentice, you would become a criminal.
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.
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.