chapter  7
The criminal class and professional criminals
Pages 11

The use of the term the ‘criminal class’ was probably at its mostcommon during the 1860s,1 but the idea of a criminal class and of professional criminals living, at least partly, by the proceeds of criminal behaviour was popular throughout the period. It has also informed the work of several historians of nineteenth-century criminality. ‘Entry into the criminal class was a means of finding support’, wrote J. J. Tobias:

it was entry into an association, informal but none the less real, members of which could be found almost everywhere. In gaol or lodging-house or on the road, criminals could find companions in like situation, could exchange experiences and discover common acquaintanceships.2