Poaching is commonly portrayed as the archetypal nineteenth-century ‘rural’ crime, particularly associated with agricultural districts of southern and eastern England. This study argues that this interpretation is misleading. Judicial statistics collected from the mid-nineteenth century suggest that poaching was much more widespread in the North and Midlands than has previously been acknowledged. These industrialising regions largely determined the national trends in poaching in the second half of the century which have usually been considered to be characteristics of rural society in the South. The South shared neither the national peak in prosecutions of the mid-1870s nor the dramatic decline in prosecutions thereafter. It considers a range of possible explanations for these different regional trends. These include a discussion of the potential motivation of so-called ‘steam age poachers’ but also the growing regional specialisation in game preservation during the period and the different opportunities, and obstacles, this presented for poaching
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