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Who Do You Think You Are? Magazine - - CONTENTS -

This month’s fam­ily his­tory in­spi­ra­tion

Re­search­ing Ju­ve­nile Of­fend­ers 1820–1920

This book tack­les the ex­pe­ri­ences of child crim­i­nals mainly dur­ing the 19th cen­tury. It is di­vided into an in­tro­duc­tion fol­lowed by four dis­tinct chap­ters tack­ling the rise of the prob­lem of ju­ve­nile crime, how the crim­i­nal jus­tice sys­tem dealt with of­fend­ers, how to re­search ju­ve­nile crim­i­nals, and their case his­to­ries.

In 1816 the term ‘ju­ve­nile delin­quency’ was first used in a re­port on gangs, prob­a­bly young ex-sol­diers from the Napoleonic Wars, but later spread to a wider group

that did not con­form to the Vic­to­rian idea of what a child should be. This was has­tened by the In­dus­trial Revo­lu­tion, which brought 1,000 peo­ple a week flood­ing into Lon­don where poverty, bad hous­ing con­di­tions and em­ployed (if they were lucky) par­ents meant that work­ing-class chil­dren were ei­ther in work or roam­ing the streets. The new po­lice force, ea­ger to prove it­self, ar­rested young crim­i­nals who were com­mit­ting petty theft and lit­tle more, and took them to the mag­is­trate’s where pun­ish­ment was out of pro­por­tion to the crime – trans­porta­tion or prison. Con­di­tions slowly im­proved, and var­i­ous Fac­tory Acts and the Ed­u­ca­tion Act of 1870 changed chil­dren’s lives. But the ef­fects of the jus­tice sys­tem on chil­dren is well il­lus­trated by the many case his­to­ries pre­sented in this book.

Par­tic­u­larly in­ter­est­ing is the cov­er­age of the dif­fer­ent sources for re­search, in­clud­ing the Dig­i­tal Panop­ti­con Project (see the in­ter­view on page 93), which links to­gether dis­parate records to al­low the re­con­struc­tion of a ju­ve­nile of­fender’s life from court­room to pun­ish­ment to adult­hood, and in­forms the case his­to­ries. This may be the most use­ful part of the book.

‘Pun­ish­ment was out of pro­por­tion to the crime’

Ju­ve­nile delin­quents were of­ten sent to in­dus­trial schools, such as this one in Of­fer­ton, Greater Manch­ester

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