Crime in the countryside 1600–1800
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Crime in the countryside 1600–1800 book
The three most common types of crime in the two centuries after 1600 were property offences, assault, and offences relating to drink. Hertfordshire and Sussex in 1603-25 had respectively 31 and 42 cases of assault, while in Wiltshire in 1615-24 the 118 indictments made assault the second most important crime. All this presents a picture of opportunistic rather than organized crime. The only organized crime that was common in rural areas was smuggling. The assessing of trends in reported crime is notoriously hazardous, the finding of causes even more so. Professor Beattie emerges from his study of court records in Surrey and Sussex with the conviction that most men, given the opportunity to work, would do so; and that when employment was available and prices were moderate, property crime was likely to be at a low level. The law took into account two factors, the existing level of crime and the character of the defendant.