The London Hanged : Crime and Civil Society in the Eighteenth Century Paperback
Peter Linebaugh's groundbreaking history has become an inescapable part of any understanding of the rise of capitalism.
In eighteenth-century London the spectacle of a hanging was not simply a form of punishing transgressors.
Rather is evidently served the more sinister purpose - for privileged ruling class - of forcing the poor population of London to accept the criminalization of customary rights and new forms of private property.
Necessity drove the city's poor into inevitable conflict with the changing property laws such that all the working-class men and women of London had good reason to fear the example of Tyburn's triple tree.
In this new edition Peter Linebaugh reinforces his original arguments with responses to his critics based on an impressive array of historical sources.
As the trend of capital punishment intensifies with the spread of global capitalism, The London Hanged also gains in contemporary relevance.
- Format: Paperback
- Pages: 528 pages, Illustrations, maps
- Publisher: Verso Books
- Publication Date: 01/02/2006
- Category: British & Irish history
- ISBN: 9781859845769
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Review by McCaine
Peter Linebaugh's "The London Hanged" is an exceedingly well-done overview of the relation between proletarian crime and capital accumulation in the London boroughs of the 18th Century. Together with Marcus Rediker, Linebaugh is the primary Marxist historian of crime, political economy and civil society in this period, and his extensive research pays off - "The London Hanged" is, as the (Daily Mail!) review on the cover says, history as it should be written. Linebaugh makes much use of the records of the hanged at Tyburn, as well as popular folk-tales about gangs, escaped convicts and trade records to build a clear picture of a London where extreme poverty and extreme violence, the latter from both the wealthy leaders of state and the urban poor, went together to enable the accumulation of capital. This sinister process of hangings for stealing a few shilling on one hand and corruption, slave trade and press gangs on the other hand is well described by Linebaugh in such terms as "Tyburnography" (after Tyburn where hangings were carried out) and "Thanatocracy". The style of discussion of the subject is best described as narrative. Peter Linebaugh examines various aspects of the London life of those times in the successive chapters, blending anecdotes, statistics and jargon from those days into a powerful whole that leaves one with the impression of having been in London in those days as an investigative journalist. What additionally makes the research of this work so outstanding is the masterful way in which Linebaugh is able to use many different sorts of sources, from anonymous political pamphlets to the works of John Locke, showing the place of each in the ideology of the time and its relation to the underlying socio-economic developments. In this way he shows that historical materialism need not be a regurgitation of vague Marxist jargon, but is the most powerful tool for historical analysis of a whole society we have. From corn manipulations to Levellers, from plantation lords to famous highwaymen, from black gang leaders to the Black Act, hogsheads and tobacco theft - this book reads as an adventure story and critique of political economy in one. The only possible downsides are the rather high degree of repetition inherent in the anecdotal nature of the work, and Linebaugh's tendency to pretentious terminology. Still, much recommended for anyone with historical interest.