British History in the Long eighteenth century seminar
24 October 2012
Adam Crymble (King’s College, London University)
Profiling Irish Crime in London, 1801-1820

Through a combination of close and distant reading of the online Old Bailey Proceedings in conjunction with the Middlesex criminal registers and the 1841 Census of England and Wales, Adam Crymble had been able to discover a seasonal pattern to crime committed by Irish immigrants in the London area between the years 1801-1820.  The conclusion that Irish immigrants tended to commit crimes more often in the Autumn is in contrast to what Adam has found for most other criminals in London.  Crime is generally less prominent in the summer, we are told, when there is more resources available but more prevalent in the deep winter when resources become scarce.  The Irish, however appear different because many of them return home for the winter months (amongst other reasons).

Illustration from book about the trial of Helen Duncan Image of the w:Old Bailey

Illustration from book about the trial of Helen Duncan Image of the w:Old Bailey

The primary aim of Adam Crymble’s talk to the British History in the Long Eighteenth Century seminar is to give a picture of Irish life in London in the first two decades of the nineteenth century.  He is particularly interested in crime and whether there were differences between the types of crime Irish settlers were likely to be prosecuted for than with other criminals of English or other nationality.  The difficulty here, however, is identifying someone who is Irish in the trial proceedings.  Keyword searching of the records brings out very poor, uneven, and inaccurate results.  It is rare that nationality is recorded.  Therefore, a comparison to the Middlesex criminal records, which record birth place, helps to identify and confirm some of their identities.  Bringing in the 1841 census enables further cross-linking to surname.  Whilst, Adam would not claim that these methods bring out complete accuracy, he believes that the results are enough to form accurate conclusions about the nature of crime committed by Irish immigrants in this period.

This paper draws out some interesting and new themes and patterns in regards to criminal activity as recorded in the Old Bailey trials further adding to our picture of life and crime in eighteenth century London.

For more on Adam Crymble’s research see his profile at King’s College London.


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