- Paperback: 522 pages
- Publisher: Verso; 2 edition (February 16, 2006)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 1859845762
- ISBN-13: 978-1859845769
- Product Dimensions: 5 x 1.1 x 8 inches
- Shipping Weight: 1.2 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
- Average Customer Review: 7 customer reviews
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #691,182 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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The London Hanged: Crime And Civil Society In The Eighteenth Century 2nd Edition
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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.
“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
Top customer reviews
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.
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. In this way he shows that historical materialism need not be a regurgitation of vague Marxist jargon, but is the most powerful tool for historical analysis of a whole society we have.
From corn manipulations to Levellers, from plantation lords to famous highwaymen, from black gang leaders to the Black Act, hogsheads and tobacco theft - this book reads as an adventure story and critique of political economy in one. The only possible downsides are the rather high degree of repetition inherent in the anecdotal nature of the work, and Linebaugh's tendency to pretentious terminology. Still, much recommended for anyone with historical interest.
The above states the case as well as it can be put.
The research is stellar: A+. The synthesis?: C-
Why? There is a non-sequitorial aspect that was endemic within the tome. And my critique is not at all political, as some critics have pounced on the Marxist bent of the author. I can not judge on so facile a ground. But his writing was choppy (read semi-linear) through and through. And he remains unflinchingly, arrogantly pedantic.
I for one, read books like this to educate myself. I should not have to wade through Oxfordian vageries to decode what the historian is laying between the lines. Why drop an item into the text before you have defined it, or properly contextualized it? If I wanted to assemble a puzzle, I would have bought a puzzle, for crying out loud.
I learned a lot, but it was like trudging through ankle-deep snow, encountering, all too frequently, a snowed-covered ditch, into which one plummets violently, unsuspectingly, only to as unexpectedly ramp up, out of said ditch thoroughly annoyed, irritated for the abrupt inconvenience of it.
A fair, nay, a fairly good work, which should have been a contender for better -- even for best. Pity.
I used to live with a historian, where I had to read him his homework while he drove, so I can tell you right here and how that this is a GREAT history book.