Organized crime groups have been a menace to society for hundreds of years. Everything from a simple group of Robin Hood-style highwaymen in seventeenth-century England, to the infamous Sicilian Mafia can be considered as organized crime groups. The first recorded incident of Sicilian-influenced organized crime in the United States occurred in October of 1890 when a New Orleans Police Superintendent was executed by a group of Sicilian immigrants. But how does organise crime emerge and flourish in some parts of the world and not others? And how can we even define the term? After all, many crimes, in fact, almost all of them, require a degree of method for their execution, but not all criminals are members of organised crime gangs.
“It is painfully obvious that the modus vivendi that has been reached between state and political institutions and organized crime is causing a permanent deformation of the democratic system.”
Shrouded in mystery, eerie in sound, mysterious in origin, menacing in the images it provoked, the word ‘mafia’ came into common usage in c. 1875.
In the Victorian era, New York was a large industrial city with ‘dark Satanic mills’ in which the poor and the rich lived “cheek by jowl”; paupers lived a hand-to-mouth existence and for many, a life of crime as part of an organised criminal gang.
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.
My Forthcoming Book: “The Lives and Exploits of the Most Noted Highwaymen, Rogues, and Murderers” (2018)
In addition to my PhD thesis entitled ‘The Changing Faces of Robin Hood, c.1700-c.1900’ and my forthcoming book, “The Mob Reformer: The Life and Legend of Wat Tyler” (2018), I have also been contracted to author another book entitled “The Lives and Exploits of the Most Noted Highwaymen, Rogues, and Murderers” which is due to be published by Pen & Sword Books in September 2018.
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.
or, The Life and Death of the Notorious High-Way-Man, Now Hanging in Chains at Hampstead, Delivered to a Friend a Little before Execution: Wherein is Truly Discovered the Whole Mystery of that Wicked and Fatal Profession of Padding on the Road (1674)
The Mysteries of London was a long-running penny dreadful serial which ran between 1844 and 1846 and was the biggest selling novel of the Victorian era. Read the ebook here. A version […]
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.
Medieval outlaws are arguably one of the first examples of organised crime in England. All organised crime gangs have certain codes of conduct which, to be counted as part of their respective gangs, they must adhere to. In this post I discuss the Outlaws Code laid down by Robin Hood in the Medieval ballads, and how and why such gangs of criminals enjoy the support of the people.