Social transformation impacts directly and indirectly upon crime and the reactions to it. Discuss with reference to 18th century England. In the first section of this essay is laid out what was seen by some social historians (Shoemaker, 1998; Sharpe, 1996; Emsley, 1996) as the major social transformations of the eighteenth century and there impacts on rural society, urban society, society in peacetime and the changing number of statutes of law, often called the 'bloody code'.
The second section will look at three competing historical views, orthodox, revisionist and post-revisionist, of this period and their reactions to this era. The eighteenth century underwent many huge transformations which impacted on crime and the reactions to it (Sharpe, 1996). Some examples include the '[C]onsiderable population growth' and 'the emergence of a class society, with an increasingly prominent middle class;' (Shoemaker, 1998:5) and the decline in monarchical power in favour of democracy (Lea, 2002) which all occurred during this period.
'The pace of economic change in the late eighteenth… was so rapid and its impacts so great that contemporaries borrowed the previously political idea of revolution to describe it: the industrial revolution. '(Calhoun, Gerteis, Moody, Pfaff, Schmidt & Virk, 2002:7; Emsley, 1996) This transformation occurred first in agriculture. Increasing productivity, by division of labour and technological development, meant non-agricultural populations, in towns, could be supported by increasingly small numbers of farmers (Calhoun, Gerteis, Moody, Pfaff, Schmidt & Virk, 2002:7).
This aided the decline in rural villages and their traditional values and a rise in towns and cities, and increased anonymity (Calhoun, Gerteis, Moody, Pfaff, Schmidt & Virk, 2002:7). This migrational process of members of the rural communities to towns and cities is known as urbanisation. The impact on rural society needs to be examined, as crime and its history cannot be seen outside its broader, demographic, economic, religious or political contexts (Briggs, Harrision, McInnes & Vincent, 1996:18).
Increasing dominance of large scale capitalist agriculture impacted on the relationships between different sections of society, creating a division in the moral values of the better off and the labouring classes (Rawlings, 1999:9). Hay has argued that over the eighteenth century that crime control, which was originally based on religious values, was replaced by one based on defence of property. (Hay, 1975) By this Hay is referring to the decline in moral economy and the way traditions and customs were criminalised by the ruling classes (1975).
With the increase use of the enclosure, the transfer of open fields or wastes and commons to individual private plots of land, individuals lost their right to use these areas for pasture, fuel and building materials (1). Subsequently statutes were passed making many traditional or customary activities, such as collecting firewood or peat for fires, grazing animals on common land or poaching, a crime. This created a category of crime that some social historians refer to as 'social crime' (Emsley, 1996:2).
These are 'those offences which had a degree of community acceptance or which can be linked with social protest' (Emsley, 1996:2) and crimes as proto-political resistance (Hobsbawm 1972:5). It is however important to note that the concept of what is and is not a social crime has been highly debated (Lea, 2002:37) For the rural masses, who were excluded from political representation in the eighteenth century, food riots were another form of crime which came under the term social crime (Lea, 2002; Emsley, 1996).
These riots were linked with the price of food, often bread. The price of bread was often raised in periods of shortage, causing the rural poor to protest and ask for lower prices (Emsley, 1996). The emergent market economy was more sensitive to rioting than any previous economic system (Polyani, 1944:186, cited in Reiner, 2000:24). Previously riotous protest was a customary means, understood commonly by all, by which the politically unrepresented populous communicated injustices (Reiner, 2000).
But with the spread of capitalism and a market economy, riots came to be regarded not as a mode of bargaining or proto-democracy but as a risk to the social and political order (Hobsbawm, 1959:116, cited in Reiner, 2000:24). This was part of a transformation 'whereby a moral economy, in which the prices and relationships were seen as subject to traditional conceptions of justice, was replaced by a pure market economy, governed only by the impersonal goals of supply and demand. ' (Thompson, 1971, 1975, 1992, cited in Reiner, 2000:25).
As people were displaced from rural areas, with the rise of agragarian capitalism, towns and cities grew in population. These towns and cities became seen as problematic. Poor areas of the rapidly growing towns may have created more crime and disorder as a consequence of the anonymity, demoralization and poverty (Reiner, 2000:17). These areas, termed rookeries, often exemplified the weakness of the justice system (Lea, 2002). As London and other towns grew, the number of residents and visitors who were relatively wealthy, who carried money, silk scarves and other valuables on there persons, increased (McIntosh, 1975:102).
This, increased opportunities for crime and altered types of crime with in London, along with the fear of crime, especially as anonymity gave the criminal the maximum advantage in an era of private prosecution (Briggs, Harrision, McInnes & Vincent, 1996:123). Especially as the criminals and there stolen goods could easily slip away anonymously back in to the rookeries, with little chance of apprehension (The open university, 1981). In the late eighteenth century theiftakers were used to help catch these criminals. For Henry Fielding one of the bow street magistrates they were essential (Rawlings, 1999)
Crime levels rose in post war peace time, as peace produced economic dislocation (Rawlings, 1999:25). With the demobilisation of the army and navy, unemployment and poverty rose with this, crime also rose proportionally. (Briggs, Harrision, McInnes & Vincent, 1996:62) This was not just a direct effect, merchant seamen with a good wage found highly qualified ex-navy seamen flooded the labour market, either taking their jobs or forcing pay cuts, though competition for the limited numbers of jobs (Rawlings, 1999:25).
Peace also meant the return of young men with no useful experience for regular peace time employment, along with the end of a useful way of ridding England of troublesome youths (Rawlings, 1999:25). These youths found them selves sent to London to collect wages, only to find no wages available, this led to rioting in 1748-9 and added to the urban crime problem (Rawlings, 1999:25) Although some of the youths formed groups and attacked trade carriages transporting goods between towns, a more common occurrence as specialisation had occurred with in the agricultural sphere of production.
(Rawlings, 1999) Growth in the number of crimes punishable by death rose rapidly in the eighteenth century (Briggs, Harrision, McInnes & Vincent, 1996:73). These were essentially concerned with the defence of property (Muncie & Mclaughlin, 1996:109). The number was estimated at upwards of 200 by the beginning of the nineteenth century (Muncie & Mclaughlin, 1996:109). Yet in a practical sense the number of actual hangings was on the decrease (Langbein, 1983). Hay explains this paradox, as a ruling class conspiracy, though the use of paternalism and deference (Hay, 1975).
By this Hay (1975) is referring to the way in which the authority of law was largely accepted. Thompson (1975) and Hay (1975) argued that propertied class interests lay behind the ever increasing number of capital statues (McGowen, 2000:1). They also argued that the propertied classes used terror and mercy to moderate the severity of the 'bloody code' in there own class interests and to reinforce to class order (McGowen, 2000:1). Although Styles (1977) argues that the new capital statutes were the least of all used though this era.
There are competing historical views of how crime and the reactions to it were impacted on by these transformations. Whig or orthodox, revisionist and post-revisionist accounts differ in there interpretations of the eighteenth century. The Whig or orthodox historians view the eighteenth century as 'one of very severe penalties… but very weak and capricious enforcement machinery' (D. Philips 1983:54, cited in Reiner, 2000:16). Radzinowicz (1948 cited in McGowen, 2000) argued that the criminal code was in theory severe, yet in practise far more moderate.
They saw the criminal code as both brutal and counter productive, as victims were hesitant to prosecute and juries overcautious in convicting, due to the bloody nature of the criminal code (Reiner, 2000:16). The orthodox approach saw eighteenth century justice as in need of reform as the system was ineffective (Reiner, 2000:17). This led them to be advocates of certainty of punishment, with a codification of the law and a police force, the eighteenth century system was considered the as indefinite, lacking organization and haphazard (Rosier, 1989 cited in Reiner, 2000:16).
The revisionist accounts of academic historians (Hay, 1975; Thompson, 1975 cited in Reiner, 2000) are critical the orthodox account. Revisionists identify a more specific and exact social origin, of political conflict to account for changes in the eighteenth century system of law (Reiner, 2000:23). However it is useful to note that it embodied converse distortions to the orthodox account (Reiner, 2000:23). Revisionism stressed that eighteenth century social transformations occurred within an expressly capitalist framework (Reiner, 2000:24).
Consequently the problem of law and order is seen as a problem rooted in the changing and heightened pattern of class division and conflict (Reiner, 2000:24). This was seen by Hay (1975) and Thompson (1975) as being associated with the rise of capitalism, in both town and country. Hay (1975) refuted the orthodox argument, stating that the eighteenth century criminal justice system was not so much intrinsically ineffective, as that it was unsuitable for a capitalist society with its emergent class relations (Reiner, 2000:27).
It is argued that the fears of increasing disorder were in fact inevitable with capitalist development, as this destroyed existing social networks and moral communities, and replaced the traditional personal bond with a waged labour force, causing wide spread deprivations and poverty (Reiner, 2000:27). Beattie (1986) and King (1984) have challenged the orthodox approaches of Radzinowicz (1948) and the revisionist approaches of Hay (1975) and Thompson (1975) with the post revisionist accounts (McGowen, 2000:1).
Post-revisionist historians are critical of both the orthodox and revisionist accounts, they attempt to produce a more moderate or pluralistic view (Reiner, 2000:37). To a certain extent the revisionist approach was an inversion of the orthodox approach (Reiner, 2000:33). The revisionist approach being a conflict perspective, opposing an equally unilinear, uncritical consensus model of the orthodox approach (Reiner, 2000:33). These approaches did however agree that the system in place was ineffective in a direct instrumental sense and therefore in need of reform (Reiner, 2000:35).
It is argued that a simple conflict or class model of the eighteenth century system does not fully account for the situation (Muncie & Mclaughlin, 1996:112) yet neither does a consensus model. It is clear that the eighteenth century was an era of transition (Open university, 1981). Many new ideas about the criminal justice system, policing and codification stemmed from the turmoil of the eighteenth century (Muncie & Mclaughlin, 1996). The century tried to mix the old system of private prosecution, no police and discretionary capital punishment with the new economic and social system of a market economy (Rawlings, 1999).
This left the eighteenth century criminal justice system in crisis. What is surprising however is the unwillingness to implement a police force (Reiner, 2000). It can also be seen that there are differing accounts of how transformations impacted on society, although they all agree that reform is necessary to maintain order in a new capitalist society (Reiner, 2000).
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