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The Criminal Class

Key Reading

  • Clive Emsley, Crime and Society in England, chapter 7

Further Reading

  • Victor Bailey, 'The fabrication of deviance: dangerous classes and criminal classes in Victorian England', in John Rule and Robert Malcolmson (eds), Protest and Survival
  • A. L. Beier, 'Identity, Language, and Resistance in the Making of the Victorian "Criminal Class" : Mayhew's Convict Revisited', Journal of British Studies, 44 (2005)
  • Kellow Chesney, The Victorian Underworld
  • David Englander, 'Henry Mayhew and the Criminal Classes of Victorian England : The Case Reopened', Criminal Justice History, 17 (2002)
  • Randall McGowen, 'Getting to know the criminal class in nineteenth century England', Nineteenth-Century Contexts, 14 (1990)
  • D. Melossi, 'Changing representations of the criminal', British Journal of Criminology, 40 (2000)
  • Preeti Nijhar, 'Imperial Violence : the "Ethnic" as a Component of the "Criminal" Class in Victorian England', Liverpool Law Review, 27 (2006)
  • David Philips, 'Three "moral entrepreneurs" and the creation of a "criminal class in England, c.1790s-1840s', Crime, Histoire et Societes, 7 (2003)
  • Martin Wiener, Reconstructing the Criminal (especially Introduction and chapter 1)


  • Is the 'criminal class' an invention of contemporaries (and later historians)?
  • What proportion of crime was committed by 'professional criminals?
  • Was the criminal class synonymous with the 'poorer class'?
  • How did perceptions of what constituted the 'criminal class' change over the nineteenth century?
  • How influential are ideas of degeneracy in contemporary understandings of the causes of crime?