What was the most important factor affecting crime
in the 20th Century?
The BIG QUESTION in this Strand is about how much
crime has changed over the centuries. There are several factors which
affect crime in any period. The 20th century saw big changes in almost
every one of them:
- The economy. By the early 20th century many of
the old industries on which Britain's industrial supremacy had been
based were in decline. In the 1930s depression they were hit hard: national
unemployment in 1933 was 22%, but in parts of northern England, Scotland
and Wales it was much higher. Some people did not have a job for twenty
years. At the same time, new industries: electricity, radio, cars, household
goods sprung up in new areas. There were thus huge contrasts of wealth
and poverty between areas and between classes for much of the century.
In the search for work, people increasingly moved around the country,
making communities less stable and people more unknown to each other.
- Technology. Several new inventions had effects
on crime, but the greatest of these by far was the motorcar (see
Case Study 1).
Aeroplanes made international transport and smuggling easier. The impact
of new forms of entertainment, particularly the cinema and TV, worried
many people. By the end of the century, the widespread use of computers
created new kinds of crime.
- Government. In the twentieth century governments
took on new roles: the "Welfare State", begun by the Liberals,
1906-14, and continued by the Labour governments of 1945-51, gave greater
security to all citizens. For the first time in History, there was no
danger of starving to death, or dying in total poverty. There was free
medical care on the National Health Service and universal, free education
to 16. The government also created laws intended to change attitudes,
such as outlawing sex and race discrimination.
- War. The two World Wars,1914-18 and 1939-45, brought
all kinds of changes. Apart from the destruction of homes and towns,
family life was disrupted by conscription and evacuation. The government
acquired all kinds of new powers to intervene in people's lives.
- Beliefs. At the same time, religious belief declined.
Attitudes were shaped more by TV and newspapers than by the churches.
Did all these factors affect crime equally? Which
was the most important?
In the Case-Studies of this Gallery of the Crime Strand you will find
examples of all these factors affecting crime. It is your task to analyse
which is the most important.
1. Car Crime
3. Young People
4. Crime Figures
How to Work
1. Work through each of these Case-Studies. Read and analyse the Sources
in each. There are HINTS in each Case-Study to help you get the most out
of the Sources.
2. At the end of your Case-Study, fill in some of the Gallery Worksheet.
3. Move on to the next Case-Study. You will only be able to answer the
Key Question when you have done most or all of the Case-Studies. However,
you could divide the job around the class, sharing your results from different
versions of the Gallery Worksheet.