Tag: Highwaymen

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.

Dick Turpin (1705-1739)

Dick Turpin (1705-1739) is perhaps the most famous highwayman in English history after Robin Hood. He is remembered today as a heavily romanticised noble, gallant figure, having allegedly rode his horse from London to York in one day upon his trusty horse, Black Bess, the real Dick Turpin, as you would expect, was a wholly different man. This post gives a brief overview of his life and the legend which grew around him.

Last Dying Speeches

‘The morning dawned…the clock had just struck eight, when the voice of a man in the street fell upon his ear. He heard the following announcement:-
Here is a full account of the horrible assassination committed by the miscreant William Bolter upon the person of his wife…only one penny! The fullest and most perfect account – only one penny!’

Jonathan Wild – London’s First Mob Boss

Whilst most people generally conceive of organised crime as being a distinctly modern, 20th-century, phenomenon, it has a longer history than first assumed. This post uses the theoretical framework of modern-day criminology to analyse the organised crime network established by Jonathan Wild in London in the early 18th century.