Summary and Info
Criminal biographies enjoyed enormous popularity in the eighteenth century, and today they offer us some fascinating perspectives on the period. Drunks, Whores and Idle Apprentices is the first book of its kind to reproduce a variety of these personal histories in one volume. Included are the biographies of street robbers, pickpockets, burglars, and horse thieves such as James Dalton, who was transported to North America, John Shepard, a popular folk hero who twice escaped from the condemned cell at Newgate Prison, and Mary Young, who allegedly headed her own gang of London pickpockets. Each biography is prefaced with background historical information, , and thoroughly footnoted. Not only does Drunks, Whores and Idle Apprentices make fascinating reading, it also raises the the problem of how to read these historical documents. Rawlings argues that instead of trying to uncover simple themes and consistencies, the most revealing thing about these biographies is the tensions, never satisfactorily resolved, around which they were constructed.
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