In the modern imagination, the highwayman is a figure on horseback in a three-cornered hat who holds up a mail-coach with pistols.
But England has a long legendary history of robber heroes, that goes back well before Dick Turpin, even before the earliest ballads of Robin Hood.
Eighteenth-century highwaymen like Turpin were absorbed into an already rich tradition of stories and ideas about robbery and robbers.
In this lively and informative book, Gillian Spraggs argues for the existence of a distinctively English 'cult of the robber'.
Englishmen took pride in the belief that there were more robbers in England than anywhere else in Europe.
This was felt to be a credit to the nation, because it demonstrated English toughness and daring.
Robbery possessed a potent mystique. For one thing, it was a gentleman's crime. The penniless young gentleman who took a purse on the highway was felt to be showing the courage that he had inherited from his ancestors.
As for the lad of common stock who was drawn to the life of a highwayman, he often saw it as a way of rising in the world, by becoming a 'knight of the road'.This is the first authoritative full-length study entirely devoted to the English robbers of history and legend.
- Format: Paperback
- Pages: 384 pages
- Publisher: Vintage Publishing
- Publication Date: 01/11/2001
- Category: True crime
- ISBN: 9780712664790