How Criminal were the Irish? Bias in the detection of London currency crime, 1797-1821
Currency-related crime was endemic in London during the Restriction Period (1797-1821). This article looks at 884 individuals suspected or charged by the Bank of England, and considers how changes in detection strategy affected the prevalence of ethnically Irish people within that list of suspects. It rejects an anti-Irish bias, and concludes that from 1812 a reduced reliance upon shopkeepers to catch people passing off false currency, and a subsequent rise in ‘sting operations’ initiated by paid officers and local informants, resulted in a significant increase in non-Irish culprits coming under suspicion and a proportionate decline of Irish accused. This change was the result of the Bank’s newfound ability to target local networks involved in the less public forms of currency crime (selling, counterfeiting, forging) for which the Irish were less well known. These findings challenge the Irish criminal reputation by highlighting the important role of detection strategies in accusations.