Debt was an increasing problem during the 1700s, with the proliferation of credit. Records of those declared bankrupt or imprisoned for insolvency are held at The National Archives (TNA) (see nationalarchives.gov.uk/ help-with-your-research/ research-guides/bankruptsinsolvent-debtors), while digitised debtors’ prison registers are at search.ancestry.co.uk/ search/group/uk_debtors_ prison. Satirist William Hogarth saw his father slung into debtors’ prison. His vivid paintings (see p56) captured the darker side of 18th-century England, revealing the effects of immorality, drunkenness and debauchery.
Londoners in the 18th century whose lives were marred by poverty, sickness and criminality are recorded at londonlives.org and on oldbaileyonline.org. Records of Petty Sessions, Quarter Sessions and Assize Courts provide colourful insights into our ancestors’ misdemeanours and more serious crimes. Findmypast.co.uk, thegenealogist.co.uk and ancestry.co.uk have records for people all over the country sentenced to transportation to Australia after the First Fleet landed there in 1787, some merely children convicted of stealing food.
This cartoon, c1762, from
shows the aftermath of the Seven Years’ War