Watch your pocket — krótka historia zamożności, czyli kradzieże zegarków w Londynie w XVIII wieku


  • Paweł T. Dobrowolski Collegium Civitas, plac Defilad 1, 00-901 Warszawa

Słowa kluczowe:

18 w. -- Anglia, Londyn (Anglia), symbole prestiżu, przedmioty luksusowe nowożytne, zegarki, kradzieże zegarków



Building on David Landes’s assumption that the growing popularity of clocks and watches was a marker of economic progress, this article probes London’s Old Bailey court records (OBSP) to assess the number of pocket watches brought as evidence of theft among the lower middle strata of metropolitan society. This statistical assessment is tied to the question whether in the second half of the 18th century the boom in the supply of and demand for „luxurious” (or semi-luxurious) products affected the lower classes of Londoners due to their growing fi nancial stabil-ity. Did the “relatively” poor become “relatively” wealthier? Two annual series are constructed: one for 1753 and the other for 1793. Watch thefts occurred as a result of highway robbery and/or housebreaking — in which case watches were simply a part of more diversifi ed loot — or in more individualized, “face to face” situations in the streets or in alehouses. In the latter case culprits were frequently women, especially prostitutes. “Watch theft cases” prove that despite the persistence of bloody code’s severe legal practices theft was increasingly punished with imprisonment sentences (although both capital sentences and deportations were signifi cant), while the number of the acquitted also grew due to more diligent scrutiny of doubtful cases. The number of cases in which pocket watches served as evidence (clocks were mentioned only twice in 1793) grew from 3.7% in 1753 to 6.8% in 1793: this was on the one hand a substantial increase and on the other a proof that a silver watch valued at 2 pounds (the most frequently stolen time measuring item) was still a marker of luxury, although it was becoming more affordable to aver-age Londoners, e.g. house servants, apprentices and lower class artisans.


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Dobrowolski, P. T. (2015). Watch your pocket — krótka historia zamożności, czyli kradzieże zegarków w Londynie w XVIII wieku. Kwartalnik Historii Kultury Materialnej, 63(3), 451–470. Pobrano z



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