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The London Hanged Paperback – August 27, 1993

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

In 18th-century Britain, most victims of capital punishment were hanged for property crimes-some as petty as the pilfering of spoons. A brutal and benighted age, we like to think, but to the author of this epic social history (originally published in 1991, it's now in its second edition), the gallows were an indispensable tool in inculcating the primary lesson-"Respect Private Property"-of a modern capitalist economy. Historian Linebaugh, co-author of The Many-Headed Hydra: The Hidden History of the Revolutionary Atlantic, explores how the disruption of a traditional economy of regulated guilds and agricultural commons by a capitalism built on cash wages and competitive markets worked itself out as crime and punishment. Customary forms of payment-in-kind, in which workers took part of the wood they sawed, the silk they wove, or the cargo their ship ferried as wages, were criminalized as theft of the owner's property; capitalists developed new methods of workplace control to circumvent workers' attempts to appropriate the fruits of their labor; and romantic criminal figures like the highwayman expressed working-class resentment at the economic transformations that forced them to steal to live. Linebaugh draws on diverse sources, including judicial archives, family budgets, dietary customs and the writings of Locke and Milton to paint both micro-historical character studies of condemned souls and a panorama of class struggle in proto-industrial Britain. The results are as teeming-and sometimes as confusing-as the London street itself, and the broad Marxian abstractions Linebaugh invokes do not always clarify things. Still, this is a rich and thought-provoking portrait of a time when "class warfare" was an all-too-violent reality. Illustrations.
Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

Review

“A bold, sweeping and provocative book ... it offers the most engrossing and stirring slice of London’s history to have appeared in a long time.”—Times Higher Educational Supplement

“A remarkable book ... this is history as it should be written.”—Alec Campbell, Daily Mail --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 484 pages
  • Publisher: Cambridge University Press; First Paperback Edition edition (August 27, 1993)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0521457580
  • ISBN-13: 978-0521457583
  • Product Dimensions: 9.2 x 6 x 1.3 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 2 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (6 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #3,110,181 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

31 of 33 people found the following review helpful By Midwest Book Review on May 17, 2003
Format: Hardcover
The London Hanged: Crime And Civil Society In The Eighteenth Century by Peter Linebaugh (Assistant Professor of History, University of Toledo) is a fascinating and informative study of eighteenth century London, in which hanging was much more than capital punishment for criminal transgressors. Death by hanging was also a weapon the privileged ruling class utilized in order to strip the indigent populace into accepting the outlawing of customary rights and newly emerging forms of private property. The new property laws were so stringent that nearly all working-class men and women had reason to fear the hangman. The lessons drawn from this history bear special relevance in today's world where capital punishment is a very hotly debated issue. The London Hanged is highly recommended reader for both academia and the non-specialist general reader with an interest in European history.
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16 of 18 people found the following review helpful By M. A. Krul on February 2, 2007
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Peter Linebaugh's "The London Hanged" is an exceedingly well-done overview of the relation between proletarian crime and capital accumulation in the London boroughs of the 18th Century. Together with Marcus Rediker, Linebaugh is the primary Marxist historian of crime, political economy and civil society in this period, and his extensive research pays off - "The London Hanged" is, as the (Daily Mail!) review on the cover says, history as it should be written.

Linebaugh makes much use of the records of the hanged at Tyburn, as well as popular folk-tales about gangs, escaped convicts and trade records to build a clear picture of a London where extreme poverty and extreme violence, the latter from both the wealthy leaders of state and the urban poor, went together to enable the accumulation of capital. This sinister process of hangings for stealing a few shilling on one hand and corruption, slave trade and press gangs on the other hand is well described by Linebaugh in such terms as "Tyburnography" (after Tyburn where hangings were carried out) and "Thanatocracy".

The style of discussion of the subject is best described as narrative. Peter Linebaugh examines various aspects of the London life of those times in the successive chapters, blending anecdotes, statistics and jargon from those days into a powerful whole that leaves one with the impression of having been in London in those days as an investigative journalist. What additionally makes the research of this work so outstanding is the masterful way in which Linebaugh is able to use many different sorts of sources, from anonymous political pamphlets to the works of John Locke, showing the place of each in the ideology of the time and its relation to the underlying socio-economic developments.
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5 of 6 people found the following review helpful By Jack Cade on March 28, 2008
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Peter Linebaugh was a student and colleague of E.P. Thompson whose work on 18th century and early 19th century England I had thought unsurpassed until I read The London Hanged. Linebaugh's book is a VERY great work of history in which he analyzes the "thanatocracy of Williamite and Augustan Britain" Except for the afterward (a bit confusing) it is felicitously written (a tribute to Thompson's influence perhaps?) and its intricate arguments linking money, property and the eath penalty are illustrated with examples that show the result of great research. Linebaugh extends Thompson's work by examining enclosure and the slave trade in (to me at least) powerfully original ways. Unlike much contemporary history, Linebaugh's work though clearly the work of a man of the left is not opinionated nor "theoretical". His arguments are open to falsification and resist the hidden tautologies that contaminate much of "New Left" literary and historical propaganda.
As I say my one complaint has to do with the afterward: it feels compressed and hurried. However, this is a small point. "The London Hanged" is a very great work--the best piece of historical writing I have read in a long time.
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