Thief-Taker General: Jonathan Wild and the Emergence of Crime and Corruption as a Way of Life in Eighteenth-Century England

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ISBN-13: 978-0887380327
ISBN-10: 0887380328
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About the Author

Gerald Howson is now in his mid-fifties and lives in Black-heath, England. He is a photographer by profession and teaches the subject at Wimbledon School of Art. He is the author of books on European music, and his work The Flamencos of Cadiz has been hailed as a beautiful and exuberant memoir. He is continuing his studies on a global scale of crime and its place in Western society.

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Want to know our Editors' picks for the best books of the month? Browse Best Books of the Month, featuring our favorite new books in more than a dozen categories.

Product Details

  • Hardcover: 338 pages
  • Publisher: Transaction Publishers (January 1, 1985)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0887380328
  • ISBN-13: 978-0887380327
  • Product Dimensions: 1.2 x 6.5 x 9.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.4 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1 customer review)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #3,003,648 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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This is an excellent read which gives a fascinating insight into the activities of criminal gangs in London during the early part of the 18th. century. It appears that Wild was truly a "criminal mastermind" combining intelligence and brutality with equal measure. In a period when corruption, vice and greed were common place Wild briefly placed himself at the very top of London's underworld. It is clear that once the very fabric of society become corrupt from top to bottom there is a tendency for the most ruthless people to rise to the top and terrible things will happen. Brecht was surely right to draw comparisons between the rise of Hitler and Al Capone.
The problem with the book is that there is so much detail that relates to a past world that has long since vanished and the chronology of events can be difficult to follow. I find that after reading the book Jonathan Wild is still a bit of an Enigma in terms of what motivated him. I suspect it was more than just greed and the need to survive. The use of the "double cross" indicates the desire to control and inflict pain on his victims. Wild kept accounts relating not only to his stolen goods but the people he hanged. Wild's activities in 18th. century London make the Kray twins seem like petty criminals. The relevance of Wild to today is it shows us what can happen if our institutions become corrupt and unworkable, his rise and fall was set against the great financial crisis of the South Sea Bubble and as Brecht says in one of his plays, "what's those that robs banks to those who own them". There is now some great stuff on the internet about the trials at the old Bailey and this book provides some good background reading.
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Thief-Taker General: Jonathan Wild and the Emergence of Crime and Corruption as a Way of Life in Eighteenth-Century England
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