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William Augustus Miles (1798-1851)

Evidence as to the causes of crime and to the courses of criminal life : as obtained from the confessions of criminals themselves, from vagrants and others / by William Augustus Miles ; transcribed by G.F. Mathew. 1835

26.0 x 4.0 cm (book measurement (inventory)) | RCIN 1047518

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  • This transcript, dedicated to William IV, contains William Augustus Miles's (1798-1851) report on the causes and effects of crime in London in the early-nineteenth century. The 1820s and '30s marked a revolution in policing in Britain, primarily due to the establishment of the first professional police force by Robert Peel in 1829. Peel's Metropolitan Police was able to tackle crime much more effectively than ever before. However, there remained a severe lack of adequate prisons in London, and many criminals were interred in hulks, ships moored along the Thames, which served as makeshift jails. Some of the worst offenders, and many juvenile offenders, were transported to Australia where they would serve out their sentences carrying out hard labour in the new colonies.

    Miles's report, issued in 1835, consists of three main sections: interviews with police officers and prison officers; reviews of the standards of accommodation in prisons across London; and the testimony of several young offenders, giving their reasons for committing crimes. Some of these inmates are unapologetic for their crimes, but many others believe that they committed them because they had no hope of advancing in polite society. Miles's report also contains descriptions of visits to the slums of St Giles (including the notorious 'Rookery') and a visit to a 'Flash House' as part of his research in attempting to discover reasons behind the high rate of juvenile crime.

    Among the solutions Miles reached in this report was to unite the Metropolitan Police with local police forces to better track the whereabouts of petty criminals, and to continue the transportation of thieves to the Australian colonies, in the hope that once away from Britain they would no longer be tempted to commit crimes. Though full of disparaging comments about the poorest in society, the report proved beneficial to Miles's career, as in the same year, the King approved his application to serve as police commissioner in New South Wales where he was responsible for the reorganisation of the police force in Sydney so that it resembled the Metropolitan force in London.

    This book provides a fascinating insight into the criminal world of the early-nineteenth century, and many of the accounts given in it are reminiscent of Charles Dickens's descriptions of London in novels such as Oliver Twist and Great Expectations.

  • Measurements

    26.0 x 4.0 cm (book measurement (inventory))