Henry Fielding's enquiry into crime


Henry Fielding: Crime


  • Intro

    Crime was rife in 18th century London, the city streets teeming with pickpockets, cutpurses and vagabonds.  In this extract magistrate Henry Fielding describes how London’s twisting alleys and lanes provided the perfect ‘concealment’ for criminals. Until the 1750s there had been no official police force in London, although systems of paid watchmen operated across different parishes. ‘Charlies’, as these watchmen were known, performed various duties: detecting and arresting suspected criminals; escorting home drunkards, and ‘crying’ out the time (for those who didn't have clocks) through the streets of their neighbourhood during the night. But these watchmen were widely criticised for being old, decrepit and ineffective. In 1751, Fielding founded the Bow Street Runners, who for the first time provided a permanent body of armed men to police the city, and carry out investigations and arrests.


    Shelfmark: 291. d. 41

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