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Between the years of 1714 and 1799 the rate of theft in London increased for many reasons. The method of research use to prove this hypothesis was Old Bailey online. Old Bailey is a court in the city of London in the county of Middlesex. The court is held eight times a year for the trial of prisoners; the crimes tried in this court are high and petty treason, petty larceny, murder, felony, burglary, etc. The goal of this paper is to prove that not only did theft increase, but also why it increased. My preliminary findings suggest that overall theft did increase, and that the main causes for this were: political, economical, and social problems.
Theft, the act of stealing, larceny, was a common law offence, but there were a large number of statutes which legislated specific punishments for particular types of theft. Of the 16,424 cases of theft between 1714 and 1799 sixty six percent were simple grand larcenies, the most common type. Simple grand larceny was defined as "the theft of goods of the value of 1 shilling (12 pence = 1 Shilling.
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There were many reasons for the constant rise of theft in the 18th century; people lived in over-crowded, squalid housing where disease was very common, working conditions were often unsafe, and employment was uncertain, alcoholism and drunkenness was becoming common, but the biggest cause of this rise in crime was the industrial revolution. The industrial revolution brought a lot of people from farms into the city of London to look for work, and if they couldn't find work instead of going back to the farm they would stay and resort to a life of theft and crime.
The 18th century was filled with opportunities for the age-old crime of theft, it was happening everywhere. There were warehouses stuffed with goods to sell. Banks, where huge amounts of money were kept. There were goods being transported from one place to another. The homes of those who got rich on the profits of industry presented new and tempting targets for burglars. A thief would take a sell anything he could get his hands on. Cloth of all sorts, clothing, pots, pans, spoons, forks, lead, and cast iron were all stolen and easily passed on.
The most common form punishment for theft was transportation, 55.41% of the convicted were transported. In 1718 the transportation act was passed allowing criminals to be transported to America. This stopped in 1776 during the war with American, but resumed again in 1787 with felons being transported to Australia this time. Transportation was an alternative to the death penalty and whipping for deterring crime, 15.57% of the convicted were but to death and 6.64% were whipped. None of these punishments, or any punishments, really deterred theft in the 1700's, the numbers just kept rising. Of the 16,424 cases of theft 564, 3.36%, of them were in the 1710's and 3064, 18.26%, were in the 1790's. In that span of 80 years or so the amount of cases involving theft went up almost 6 fold.
The legal system and society of the 1700's was one filled with crime and theft. All the ways that were tried to deter theft didn't, and couldn't work. The only real way to stop crime is to stop poverty, because as long as there are people who don't have enough to eat, there will always be someone willing to take the risk of getting caught to feed themselves or their family.
In conclusion I believe that all the evidence I have provided proves my point that in general theft did increase every decade during the 18th century due to many reasons, one the biggest being the industrial revolution.