Child-Stripping in the Victorian City

Donald MacRaild, Frank Neal

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

    7 Citations (Scopus)


    During the nineteenth century, police, magistrates, reformers and thepress noticed a rising tide of juvenile crime. Child-stripping, the crime of stealingyoung children’s clothes by force or deception, was an activity of this typewhich caused alarm among contemporaries. As the century progressed, improvedpolicing, urbanization and Irish migration, allied to growing social concern, causedmore cases of child-stripping to be noticed. Accounts by Dickens, Mayhew andothers characterized child-stripping as an activity indulged in by old women whowere able to make money by victimizing the weakest strata of society. However,research in the British Library’s digitized newspaper collections as well as inparliamentary papers conclusively demonstrates that child-stripping, far frombeing the domain of Dickensian crones,was actually perpetrated by older children,notably girls, against children even younger than themselves. Despite widespreadrevulsion, which at times approached a ‘moral panic’ prompted by the natureof the crime, progressive attitudes largely prevailed with most child-strippingchildren being sent to reformatories or industrial schools in the hope of reformingtheir behaviour. This article thus conforms with Foucauldian notions of the switchfrom physical to mental punishments and aligns with the Victorians’ invention ofchildren as a category of humanity that could be saved.
    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)431-452
    JournalUrban History
    Issue number3
    Publication statusPublished (in print/issue) - 1 Aug 2012


    Dive into the research topics of 'Child-Stripping in the Victorian City'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

    Cite this