What did eighteenth-century Londoners think about crime? Traditionally, as epitomized in the predictable narratives of the Ordinary’s Accounts (the biographies of condemned felons written by the chaplain of Newgate prison), crime was the product of the sins to which every English man or woman — ‘everyman’ — was vulnerable, and thus the threat posed was, above all, a threat that people might end up committing crimes.1 From the late seventeenth century, however, stimulated by the vast expansion of printed literature about crime, the threat of becoming a victim of crime was increasingly emphasized in public discourse.2 Ultimately, this led to the development of the sociological idea that crime was committed by a separate group, composed of people unlike the reader or observer, which came in the nineteenth century to be labelled a ‘criminal class’.3 The advent of public opinion...

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