Rural crime and protest in the Victorian era
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Rural crime and protest in the Victorian era book
The economic or ‘rational’ approach to relationships in the countryside was accompanied by an assault on traditional village culture. The battle over charity land and rights has been much neglected by historians, but it was a recurring theme in the protests, threatening letters, and reminiscences of village folk. Beerhouses, which were legalized by an Act of 1830, were condemned by many observers as the home of rural crime; and there were indeed famous drinking places like the Chequers Inn, Thetford, and Higg's beerhouse in Charlton in which poaching and protests were organized. Although vagrancy and certain other offences remained a permanent source of concern in the second half of the nineteenth century, there were, nevertheless, important changes in the composition of rural crime during this period. The Swing and Rebecca riots were said to have been organized by 'suspicious strangers', and rural crime was attributed to vagrants, gipsies, and navvies.