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Case Study 5 - Was smuggling regarded as a crime? Task Glossary

Smuggling is a crime entirely created by governments.
In the 18th century, the British government collected a good deal of its income from customs duties - tax paid on the import of goods such as tea, cloth, wine and spirits. The tax was high, up to 30%, so these items became expensive. Smuggled goods were a lot cheaper than goods which had paid the duty. People were ready to buy and smuggling became big business.
Smugglers operated all around the coasts of Britain, but were particularly aggressive and well-organised on the south coast, only a night's sail from France. Large gangs formed, often too big for the Customs officials to deal with. Smugglers were prepared to use violence, too.
Many ordinary people approved of smuggling, or took part in it. Labourers could earn more in a night's work carrying brandy barrels up from the beach than they could in a month's hard work in the fields. Others left their barns or cellars unlocked and didn't ask questions about what was put in there. Quite respectable people were involved, sometimes for money, sometimes because they didn't regard smuggling as a crime.
When Prime Minister William Pitt lowered duties in the 1780s, smuggling became less profitable. Further removal of duties in the 19th century put an end to the kind of smuggling which went on so openly in the 18th century. But wherever governments try to stop, or tax, the movement of goods which people want, smugglers operate.

Case Study  5 Sources Source 4 Source 3 Source 2 Source 1
Source 1