The Thief-taker Hangings

The Thief-taker Hangings

How Daniel Defoe, Jonathan Wild, and Jack Sheppard Captivated London and Created the Celebrity Criminal

Book - 2014
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In the early 1700s, lawlessness ruled England, and highwaymen, thieves, and prostitutes thrived. When notorious burglar Jack Sheppard finally met the hangman, street singers warbled ballads about the housebreaker whom no prison could hold. Before his execution, he told his story to a writer in the crowd. Daniel Defoe had done hard time himself for sedition and bankruptcy and saw how prison corrupted the poor. They came out thieves, but he came out a journalist. Six months later, Defoe covered another death at the hanging tree. Jonathan Wild had all but invented the double-cross. He cultivated thieves and then betrayed them for his reward and their executions. Jack Sheppard hadn't taken orders from this self-proclaimed "thief-taker general," and the two-faced bounty hunter took it personally, helping to bring the burglar's life to an end. But Wild's duplicity soon came to light, and he became the most despised man in the land. When he swung, a mob hurled rocks, rotten food, and even dead animals at him. Defoe once again got the scoop, and tabloid journalism had begun.

Publisher: Guilford, Connecticut : Lyons Press, [2014]
ISBN: 9780762791484
Branch Call Number: 070.44936 SKI
Characteristics: xvii, 302 pages :,illustrations ;,24 cm


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Aug 27, 2017

A Sociology major, I seldom read English literature or English History but my enjoyment of the Hermann Melville novels and some of Daniel Defoe's makes it possible to undertake The Thief-Taker Hangings by Aaron Skirboll. An interest in Criminology doesn't hurt any either when reading this crime history of the thieves of London in the early 18th Century. He wrote about them in his bulletins it seems, both to help them and to reduce crime. The punishment administered described even adds a new perspective to our American Revolution that the book could be of interest to American history readers! It increased my sympathy for the peasants and lower classes of that time.

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