Underworld London: Crime and Punishment in the Capital City

Written by Catharine Arnold
Review by Doug Kemp

This is a broad-brush account of London’s most notorious crimes from the Middle Ages up to the present day, together with descriptions of the punishments meted out to those responsible. The author collates a variety of secondary sources in a readable and pacy narrative that, given the upwards of a thousand years covered, is necessarily a little lacking in depth at times. For a English national, most of the crimes and malefactors are fairly well known already, though the accounts of the grisly and often appalling punishments makes for occasionally uncomfortable reading. Arnold makes a strong case to show why capital punishment should remain off the statute books and if there is anything positive to take away from this catalogue of human iniquity, it is that the more enlightened recent attitudes towards the punishment of serious crime has to be a good thing.