Wednesday, 30 June 2010


Crime and Criminals in Victorian Kent by Adrian Gray (Meresborough books ISBN 0905270967)

also Crime and Criminals in Victorian Essex by Adrian Gray.

This is a very easy to read, straightforward account of various forms of criminal occurences across the county in Victorian times. Opening with the rather expected sections on Murder and manslaughter, through theft and onto sex crimes, Gray then covers Politics and incendiarism (or arson as we call it), assault and smugglers, before rounding it off with short chapters on policing and the poor law.

Throughout the cases Gray recalls, he demonstrates a good awareness and understanding of the social contexts of the time, and tells the tales with a nice sense of humour. The cases themselves seem to largely come from press reports or court records, and appear to be pretty reliable, and are well presented giving the reader a good solid basis for understanding some of the motives - or lack of - that lead these folks down the path they ended up!

For family historians in general, these books provide the reader with a lot of social history in an accessible format, and can often provoke ideas about how further research into ones own ancestors might be pursued. For readers with ancestors in the Counties covered, both books contain a list of places mentioned and principle 'characters' discussed. For those fortunate enough to find family members discussed inside, it will be a massive bonus! But even for those with ancestors in the villages mentioned, in addition to the general social context gained by reading this book, you will be reading about events that might well have directly or indirectly impacted on your ancestors lives if even for a short period. Would the local riot have been the topic for discussion at your ancestors pub that week? Or would your ancestor have shopped at the butchers who killed one of his customers?

Fascinating reading, but both books follow a very, very similar format - right down to the phrases used - so perhaps getting both books might prove a little pointless unless one has ancestors in both counties!

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