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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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Burglary Insurance and the Culture of Fear

Burglary Insurance and the Culture of Fear

(p.110) 5 Burglary Insurance and the Culture of Fear
Night Raiders

Eloise Moss

Oxford University Press

Terrifying images of burglars carrying knives and guns, scrambling through windows, or standing silent and masked beside householders’ beds, characterized the marketing strategy of the burglary insurance sector, which sprung into existence during the 1880s. Chapter 5 shows how, by exacerbating homeowners’ fears of the presence of the burglar within the home, and the prevalence of burglary nationally, insurers merged individual and national concerns about the crime in a calculated bid to attract custom. It analyses fear-mongering insurance adverts, with their promise to act as a bastion of security against financial loss, alongside instances when victims of burglary attempted to make a claim. Caveats dealing with the need to prove that burglars had indeed ‘broken’ in were contingent on homeowners fitting sophisticated, branded locks and latches at points of vulnerability on windows and doors. Just as this made securing financial compensation more challenging, it also instilled the idea of burglars’ expertise and professionalism should they conquer these defences. As the self-styled commercial ‘protection’ against burglary, burglary insurance became an ordinary household investment. Its prosperity therefore enables us to identify those ideas about crime and criminal that held currency in the minds of consumers. Crucially, this chapter highlights the intersection of media, state, and market discourse about crime in weaving a specific version of burglary into the very fabric of everyday life, uniting three domains that historians of crime have traditionally treated separately.

Keywords:   insurance, victimization, compensation, advertising, security industry, consumerism, governmentality

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