Burglary insurance and the culture of fear in Britain, c. 1889-1939

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This article explores the representations of burglary and burglars created by the burglary insurance sector in late nineteenth- and early twentieth-century Britain. Two lines of argument are developed: first, that the marketing strategy of the burglary insurance sector exacerbated existing fears about the nature and prevalence of burglary in a calculated bid to attract custom; and secondly, that the depictions of crime and criminal used in marketing this form of insurance were subsequently revised in the contracts issued to customers as part of the industry's commercial transactions, thereby securing against supposed 'negligence' by homeowners as well as malicious attempts to defraud insurers. As the self-styled commercial 'protection' against burglary, burglary insurance became an ordinary household investment. Its prosperity therefore enables us to identify certain ideas about crime and criminal then current. Crucially, this research highlights the intersection of media, state, and market discourse about crime in weaving a specific version of burglary into the very fabric of everyday life, uniting three domains that historians of crime have traditionally treated separately. © Copyright Cambridge University Press 2011.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1039-1064
Number of pages25
JournalHistorical Journal
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - Dec 2011


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