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.
In the 18th century, people asssumed that if you shunned work and acted like an idle apprentice, you would become a criminal.
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.
Charles Kinnaister: Executed for the Murder of Australian Aborigines (1838)
Broadly speaking, criminals fall into three types: heroes, buffoons, and brutes.[i] The categories are just as applicable to the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries as they are today – ‘heroes’ would be men […]
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 […]
The Critical Reception of Mrs. Brown of Falkland’s Robin Hood Ballads
Paper Presented to the Women’s History Network Conference, Leeds Trinity University, 16-17 September 2016.
Abstract: The earliest ballads of Robin Hood such as A Gest of Robyn Hode (c.1450) and Robin Hood and the Potter (c.1450) give no clue as to the manner of Robin Hood’s birth. This was still the case when Joseph Ritson published his influential ballad anthology entitled Robin Hood: A Collection of All the Ancient Poems, Songs, and Ballads (1795). Five years after Ritson, however, Robert Jamieson published Popular Ballads and Songs, from Tradition, Manuscripts, and Scarce Editions (1806). In that collection two new never-before-seen Robin Hood ballads appeared entitled The Birth of Robin Hood and The Wedding of Robin Hood and Little John. Jamieson had transcribed the ballads from Anna Gordon Brown of Falkland, Scotland. Although twentieth-century Robin Hood critics have derided Mrs. Brown’s ballads as being of little merit compared to earlier material, Mrs. Brown enjoyed a ‘literary afterlife’ in the tradition as Goody – the old woman who recites Robin Hood stories to dinner guests – in the first ever Robin Hood novel entitled Robin Hood: A Tale of the Olden Time (1819). The proposed paper, therefore, is intended to fit into the panel ‘Women Collectors and Collected Women’.
Last Dying Speeches, Trials, and Executions: The Changing Format and Function of Crime Broadsides, c.1800 – c.1840
A paper delivered at Pernicious Trash? Victorian Popular Fiction, c.1830-c.1880, Leeds Trinity University 12 September 2016.
Capt. Alexander Smith’s “A History of the Lives and Robberies of the Most Notorious Highwaymen, Footpads, Shoplifts, and Cheats” (1714) | Stephen Basdeo
Alexander Smith’s A History of the Lives and Robberies of the Most Notorious Highwaymen, Footpads, Shoplifts, and Cheats (1714), with its combination of excessive moralism and sensational reporting, set the tone for all successive ‘true’ crime writing.
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.
Maid Marian in Victorian Penny Dreadfuls: A Proto-Feminist?
A paper read at Chethams Library, Manchester – 20 May 2016.
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.
Thomas Love Peacock’s “Maid Marian” (1822)
For International Women’s Day, I discuss Thomas Love Peacock’s ground-breaking novel “Maid Marian” (1822).
Walter Scott’s “Ivanhoe” (1819)
Walter Scott’s novel “Ivanhoe” (1819) is perhaps the best Robin Hood story ever written.
The Victorian Underworld
This is the text of a public talk given at Abbey House Museum, Kirkstall, Leeds on 1 March 2015 to complement their Crime and Punishment Exhibition.
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.
Joseph Ritson (1752-1803)
An atheist, monarchy-hating, Robin Hood scholar.
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.
Christmas in Newgate Gaol
In 1863 a reporter decided to experience what it was like to spend Christmas Day amongst the felons in Newgate.