Fans of outlaw stories, if they were ever able to time travel, might travel back to the 1820s and 1830s when Victor Hugo’s outlaw drama premiered.
Luke Hutton’s “Black Dogge of Newgate” (1596) | Stephen Basdeo
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.
Painting a Pandemic: Domenico Gargiulo’s “Plague at Naples” (1656) | Stephen Basdeo
The scene is one of confusion as dead bodies lay in the street. In this picture, however, God looks on from above—does he feel sympathy for the plague victims, has he caused it, or is he simply indifferent?
“The Life and Death of Jacke Straw” (1593)
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.
Poetry: The Rebellion of Wat Tyler and Jack Straw (c.1612)
Unlike that other medieval hero and man of the people, Robin Hood, Wat Tyler does not enjoy an extensive ballad “afterlife.”
This song, first published in The Garland of Delight (1612), is perhaps the first proper ballad which features the famous rebel. It was subsequently published by Thomas Evans in “Old Ballads, Historical and Narrative” (1777) during the “age of ballad scholarship.” Presented here is a transcription of the song.
From Barman to Highwayman: The Case of William Hawke (d.1774)
When William Hawke moved to London in the 18th century, little did he know that he would fall in with the criminal world, be transported to America, return to London and be hanged.
My Forthcoming Book: “The Mob Reformer: The Life and Legend of Wat Tyler” (2018)
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.
Capt. Charles Johnson’s “General History of the Pyrates” (1724)
In 1724 a book appeared entitled A General and True History of the Robberies and Murders of the Most Notorious Pyrates (1724) which was written by a “Captain” Charles Johnson. The name […]
Historic Yorkshire Criminals: William Knipe’s “Criminal Chronology” (1867)
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.
Curteous Outlaws and Elizabethan Rogues: The 16th-Century Context of “A Gest of Robyn Hode”
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.
The Legend of Robin Hood
A forthcoming public talk to be delivered at Pontefract Castle on 8 May 2016.
The Newgate Calendar | Stephen Basdeo
The lives of murderers, ravishers, thieves, highwaymen, burglars, forgers, Pirates, and Street Robbers adorned the pages of “The Newgate Calendar”.
Edgworth Bess, a Prostitute (fl. 1723-24)
Jack Sheppard’s lover and 18th-century sex worker.
Charles Johnson’s ‘Lives of the Highwaymen’ (1734)
Johnson’s Lives of the Highwaymen was part of one of the most popular genres of early eighteenth-century literature: the criminal biography.
Rogues in Early Modern England
The word ‘rogue’ was not invented until the 1560s.
Sir John Falstaff, the Notorious Highwayman
Criminal biographers were so committed to historical accuracy that they gave us The Life of the notorious highwayman, Sir John Falstaff.