Innocent deviants: Petitioning for juvenile offenders in England, 1824-1839



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“Innocent Deviants” demonstrates that labeling juvenile offenders as criminals was a complex issue and that contemporaries often fought back against the idea in early nineteenth century England. This work moves away from the top-down approach of examining the law in England during the nineteenth century to exploring how average citizens used petitions to attempt to gain mitigation for convicted juveniles. While there was certainly anxiety about the amount of crime children were committing, there were also those who recognized that if the crime rates among children were rising it was the result of economic, social, and political factors. Importantly, some of these individuals were willing to speak out on behalf of the juveniles who became entangled in the judicial and penal systems. This project looks beyond the dominant political historiographical narrative and presents a more complex image of the perception of juvenile offenders. This dissertation argues that petitions issued on behalf of juvenile offenders analyzed in this study were the result of a legal system that designated minor crimes as capital offenses and valued personal property over the lives of children. It also adds to the history of childhood and crime by including correspondence and petitions written by convicted juveniles.

Embargo status: Restricted until 06/2026. To request the author grant access, click on the PDF link to the left.



Childhood, Crime, England, Juvenile, Offenders, Petitions, Nineteenth Century