Dark secrets of the Victorian Underworld: did hardened criminals stalk Britain’s cities?

In the eyes of many Victorians, Britain's great metropolises had a dark side – and it was one in which burglars, swindlers, pickpockets and safe-crackers ran riot. But did the stereotype of the 'criminal underclass' tally with the truth? Heather Shore investigates

Rogues' gallery: Images of criminals incarcerated in prisons including Wormwood Scrubs and Newcastle City Gaol, in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. Their crimes included stealing clothes, money, boots, and leather. Recent research into Victorian mugshot books – and increasing digital access to court and prison records – offers a different picture of Victorian criminality to the one painted by writers such as Charles Dickens, argues Heather Shore. (Photo by SSPL/Getty Images)

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