Mayhem

Post-War Crime and Violence in Britain, 1748-53

Nicholas Rogers

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After the end of the War of Austrian Succession in 1748, thousands of unemployed and sometimes unemployable soldiers and seamen found themselves on the streets of London ready to roister the town and steal when necessary. In this fascinating book Nicholas Rogers explores the moral panic associated with this rapid demobilization.

Through interlocking stories of duels, highway robberies, smuggling, riots, binge drinking, and even two earthquakes, Rogers captures the anxieties of a half-decade and assesses the social reforms contemporaries framed and imagined to deal with the crisis. He argues that in addressing these events, contemporaries not only endorsed the traditional sanction of public executions, but wrestled with the problem of expanding the parameters of government to include practices and institutions we now regard as commonplace: censuses, the regularization of marriage through uniform methods of registration, penitentiaries and police forces.

Nicholas Rogers is distinguished research professor of history at York University, Toronto. He is the author or co-author of several books, including, most recently, Halloween: From Pagan Ritual to Party Night and The Press Gang: Naval Impressment and Its Opponents in Georgian Britain.

"I know of no book that examines such a broad swath of topics and employs such a variety of sources. . . . It is seldom that an academic book, researched by a first-rate scholar, is so readable and entertaining."—Donna T. Andrew, University of Guelph

"From the streets, turnpikes, and taverns to the courts, pulpits, and Parliament, Mayhem reminds us that the fractious polity of mid-century Britain took its cues from a great many players. Rogers is required reading for anyone seeking to understand the eighteenth century."—Deborah Valenze, author of The Social Life of Money in the English Past

 "Nick Rogers’ expert knowledge of electoral politics, crowd behavior and the lives of seafarers are all put to good use in this Hogarthian account of life in the British metropolis and empire in the mid eighteenth century."—Joanna Innes, Somerville College, Oxford

“[A] lively, compelling work.”—Choice

“Rogers’s fascinating examination of the gin craze is one of several interlocking case studies that together offer a vivid picture of a Hanoverian state facing myriad challenges to authority . . . Mayhem is acutely observed and richly detailed: it provides a convincing snapshot of a society reeling under a crime wave, and desperate enough to consider any means of curbing it.”Stephen Brumwell, Times Literary Supplement

"Nicholas Rogers is a deft scholar who marshals an impressive variety of sources in this book. . . . He offers a fresh take on the intersection of a variety of social and political issues at a key point in the eighteenth century.”—American Historical Review

Winner of the 2013 John Ben Snow Prize sponsored by the North American Conference on British Studies.
ISBN: 9780300169621
Publication Date: January 8, 2013
272 pages, 6 1/8 x 9 1/4
12 b/w photos, 3 graphs
The Lewis Walpole Series in Eighteenth-Century Culture and History
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