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Night RaidersBurglary and the Making of Modern Urban Life in London, 1860-1968$
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Eloise Moss

Print publication date: 2019

Print ISBN-13: 9780198840381

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: July 2019

DOI: 10.1093/oso/9780198840381.001.0001

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PRINTED FROM OXFORD SCHOLARSHIP ONLINE (oxford.universitypressscholarship.com). (c) Copyright Oxford University Press, 2020. All Rights Reserved. An individual user may print out a PDF of a single chapter of a monograph in OSO for personal use. date: 21 September 2020

The ‘King of All Burglars’

The ‘King of All Burglars’

(p.21) 1 The ‘King of All Burglars’
Night Raiders

Eloise Moss

Oxford University Press

Chapter 1 charts the emergence of the ‘professional’ London burglar as a masculine, daring, and diabolically clever criminal type, embodied in the exploits of Charles Peace (d. 1879). Peace, a notorious burglar and murderer originally from Sheffield, committed twenty-six burglaries in London’s Blackheath district single-handed in 1878. Using inventive disguises, hand-made tools, and enjoying an extensive and prolific ‘career’, Peace gained a notoriety which endured into the late 1930s. Peace was exceptional. His life and criminal exploits were an anomaly among a much larger number of opportunistic thieves, whose burglaries, from predominantly working-class homes, were few and their rewards meagre. Why, then, did Peace become the archetype of burglars, upon whose legacy police and public were encouraged to dwell when deciding how to regulate the city and secure their homes? Chapter 1 traces how a real-life villain was turned into a legendary criminal, in a process that had profound implications for all subsequent versions of burglary whether legal, criminological, or circulating through popular culture.

Keywords:   Charles Peace, professional criminal, penny dreadful, literacy, social surveys, Madame Tussauds

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