Download Text (3.5 MB)


The year 1828, when William Burke, William Hare, and their wives murdered nearly a score of Edinburgh’s poor and sold their bodies, is a time when entrepreneurial criminals in Edinburgh’s Old Town flourished. Young thieves ransacked a warehouse for tea, women pretending to be prostitutes lifted gentlemen’s watches, and fine linens disappeared from washerwomen’s houses. What Symonds reveals is a shadow economy where the most numerous of all criminals and thieves practice their trade not out of poverty and misery, but because it is their means of earning a living. Laborers and immigrants struggled to make a few pennies, and some chose to prey on others to do so.

[Notorious Murders, Black Lanterns, & Moveable Goods]…raises interesting questions about how crime is tolerated in poor communities and the collective reaction to deviance, community policing, and social justice. —Linda Mahood, Associate Professor, University of Guelph



Publication Date

Summer 6-1-2006


University of Akron Press


Akron, Ohio


Crime, British History, Sociology


Criminology and Criminal Justice | Place and Environment

Notorious Murders, Black Lanterns, and Moveable Goods: Transformation of Edinburgh's Underworld in the Early Nineteeth Century



To view the content in your browser, please download Adobe Reader or, alternately,
you may Download the file to your hard drive.

NOTE: The latest versions of Adobe Reader do not support viewing PDF files within Firefox on Mac OS and if you are using a modern (Intel) Mac, there is no official plugin for viewing PDF files within the browser window.