A brief history of crime


I read this book, named in the title, a month back. I am reading it again now. That is how good it is. Peter Hitchens is a pompous prig and I once had the honour of pinging his ear in Reading Railway station. ‘Hey Pete put that in your column’ I said.

It was comical – ‘May I have your name?’ I refused to tell him. He followed me around, ‘You just committed an assault on me.’

He went out, he sneaked on me to a railway employee and I denied doing anything and Hitchens said of me ‘Thinks he’s clever.’ – ‘No Pete –  I AM clever.’

I left the station and he said, ‘Let’s gret some British Transport Police.’  He went off and I got away.

He could have had me caught by CCTV –  but oh he disapproves of that!

Anyhow the book is rollicking. I do think the prison regime a century ago was inhumane. In the US all the shakedowns seems harsh but at least the guards are in charge –  here it is the crims who run the place.

I agree with much of what Hitchens says. The weakest part is his attack on drugs. He eulogises the Victorian epoch. Yet we had all drugs as legal then –  for recreational use. Their use was very limited though.

His opposition to narcotics sits oddly with his libertarian instincts.

His attacks on PC police, endless bureaucracy, the bogus notion of institutional racism and  excessive gun control are all totally valid.

Hitchens is a stupid attention seeker. His vocabulary is often hyperbolic and ignorant. He is a contrarian. One can only put down much his bizarre range of views to attention seeking perversity.

I remember in 2001 a book called The Election was published. Various pundits were asked to forecast the result. Of a score of them only Hitchens predicted a Conservative victory –  and then by a landslide. How wrong can you get? Rather calls into question his judgement. I once questioned him about it and he said he only said that to get people to listen to him.

He was a Trotskyist and is now ultra-conservative. He likes the lunatic fringe.

He tried to be a Conservative MP in the 1990s and now hates that party. Sour grapes, per chance?

He calls for remoralisation and Christianity but never spells out exactly what he believes here. What do we do now that there are many atheists and people of other religions in the country?


About Calers

Born Belfast 1971. I read history at Edinburgh. I did a Master's at UCL. I have semi-libertarian right wing opinions. I am married with a daughter and a son. I am allergic to cats. I am the falling hope of the not so stern and somewhat bending Tories. I am a legal beagle rather than and eagle. Big up the Commonwealth of Nations.

5 responses »

  1. Maybe you were not the first, or last, stranger to flick his ear. An isolated straw does not break a camel’s back.

  2. Anyone who thinks the guards are more in charge in American jails than elsewhere should watch the series “Oz” and think again.

    • That may be so in some gaols. I have watched a reality TV – well, fly on the wall programme about prisons in Georgia – sorry, penitentiary. They film prisoners breaking the rules. Are they subsequently punished for these infractions? If they were I suppose people would stop co-operating with the film crews so much.
      Anyhow in those prisons the staff have pretty firm control.

  3. Not enough people seem to realise that in the Victorian era we had the option of transportation to Australia, unlike now-meaning that comparisons between then and now are misleading.

  4. Through the 18th and much of the 19th centuries the UK often punished people with a fate worse than death. Transportation to…. Australia! Many died en route. As Niall Ferguson has observed it was the equivalent of being sent to Mars. I have heard it said that given a choice between Botany Bay and the Gallows some opted for the latter. Let us not forget that the Thirteen Colonies and I believe Ireland were used by authorities in Great Britain as a place to send felons. Transportation ended in 1868. Even after that the prison regime was fearfully strict. Churchill as Home Secretary about 1910 said convicts must ”Pay back their debt to society in the hard coinage of punishment”. No Open University PhDs then. I think the prison service, though often not much different from the criminals, was not as riddled with corruption then as now. How else get the drugs and phones into prison when all visitors are, or supposedly are, thoroughly searched? We could at least record all phone calls from prison because then we would get great intelligence in illegal activities. It must be permissible to do so as making such calls is in itself criminous.
    To some degree I concur with Robert. Our punishments were much firmer, far too firm at times. But that was much of the reason why crime rates were far lower than now even in times of severe hardship. Interestingly, Victorian courts punished crimes against property more so than violence. Nowadays this is reversed which is good.

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