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4.3 out of 5 stars
Gangs of Manchester, The
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17 of 17 people found the following review helpful
VINE VOICEon 19 December 2008
Gangs with knives, the occasional firearm, judges too soft, sentences too lenient and innocent bystanders maimed, injured and murdered. Not the gang culture of the early 21st century but the reality of Manchester in the late nineteenth century where stonings and stabbings (even of policemen)were far too common and prison kept the riff raff off the streets until they served their two, four or six month sentences to return to their violent pastime of "scuttling".

The problems faced then remain unchanged now, youngsters with too much time on their hands, the practice of obscene communications (long before Channel 4!) undermining social respect, teenagers (girls as well as boys) being involved in what they perceived as peer approved behaviour and, above all, the ready availability of alcohol in the days before the introduction of limited hours. If ever proof of "four generations and back to clogs" were needed, 24 hour licensing provided it.

Although there were some racial and religious elements involved, the gangs were (as today) largely territorially based. Many of those in their early teens claimed to be adults in order to avoid a five year sentence to the Reformatory School, where discipline was strict, rather than the inside of Strangeways where the maximum sentence for assault by an adult was likely to be six months or less.

Underpinning it all lay the English tradition of fighting for the sake of it (the beer merely increased the incidence). For many living in the city which coined the term "Acid Rain" as early in 1872, it was the only energetic outlet of drab lives and much of it was mischievous rather than criminal in intent.

The introduction of alternative forms of recreation such as Lads' clubs and the Boys' Brigade played a part in changing attitudes and activities. Ultimately it was discipline (either in the form of military service or, in many cases, marriage) which saw young men drained of their capacity for violence and finally settle down.

There was a large degree of self interest against change. Rather like the saloon keeper in High Noon, publicans were less interested in keeping law and order as keeping their customers (however bawdy) happily supplied with alcoholic beverages.

What is perhaps surprising is that ideas of how to punish offenders were as diverse as now. Not all judges considered jail as the first option, many recognised the need for social reform and the introduction of social and legal structures which could be respected by all sectors of society.

Andrew Davies has written a first rate history of late nineteenth Manchester and Salford, evoking a culture which was still prevalent in the early 1950's in the schoolyard and society as a whole. What's more he has made it readable and lively while maintaining the highest level of scholarship. Well worth buying. Indeed, a bargain.
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18 of 19 people found the following review helpful
on 16 October 2008
Whether or not you're a Mancunian, this books makes facinating reading.
The book brings home to life the harsh existance and lack of opportunties for the working classes in the hey day of Industrial Manchester and Salford, that led to the rise of the Scuttlers.

As a Salford resident, I learnt a lot about the area in which I live that I simply wasn't aware off. The people and places (many of which I know) are brought vividly to life - I've already had quite a few conversations in the local pub about the events portrayed and the people involved.

Now that I've read the book, I would love a follow up on what happened to the Scuttlers in later life and wouldn't it be good to meet the modern day descendants of the "King" of the Scuttlers and get their view on their infamous ancestors.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
on 18 May 2014
A really interesting story of the Scuttler Gangs of late Victorian Manchester and Salford who battled with each other for other 30 years in the slums of both cities. If people think things are bad to day these Gangs were beating each other senseless for no other reason than they came from different parts of the City. The Authorities really struggled with how to handle this problem as harsher sentences in courts did little to stop it. However with the advent of lads clubs/sporting activities etc, it more or less saw them disappear overnight by 1900. I knew nothing of the Scuttlers until reading the book but if visiting Manchester the Ancoats district of Manchester is being redeveloped and you can still see the streets/Mills (now flats) where the gangs like the Bengal Tigers lived.Good read
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
on 26 November 2013
A must for anyone born within a 20 mile radius of central Manchester. I was born in Ancoats in the early 1950's but most of the streets complete with cobbles and back yards mentioned in the book were still there when I was growing up. My grandmother, born 1885 used to tell us about these gangs and how terrified people were. This book is real fact!
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7 of 8 people found the following review helpful
on 28 September 2010
I heard a lecture by the author, an Academic from the North West, and enjoyed the clarity of the research he had done for the book but also the entertainment value so rushed out and bought it!
The book shows that youth gangs are not new and they never change in their make-up, and he follows the progression of some of the gang members to rather sad ends. The book is informative and entertaining backed by real academic research and knowledge.
I would buy it if you are doing a History degree relevant to this period (it was a set book for development of youth culture at Manchester Met), or if (like me) you are interested in crime.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on 10 March 2015
An excellent social history book about the notorious `boy` gangs in Victorian Manchester. It was written in a vert accessible wayfor a non-historian.It was particularly interesting to me as I lived just a mile up the road from Ancoats and my grandfather and great grandfather would have been living and working in the area at the time.They were part of a group of people who helped to take the boys off the streets and into more worthwhile pursuits. I have recommended the book to many others who lived close by to the areas affected by the scourge of the gangs for so long.
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10 of 12 people found the following review helpful
on 21 October 2008
This book is a fascinating read, and one in the eye for anyone who talks of "the good old days" as if there was no crime. There was, and amongst appalling living conditions.

The life of the working class of the late 19th Century in inner city Manchester and Salford is told with the flair of a novel writer, but with the accuracy and attention to detail of the accomplished historian that the author is.

The Scuttlers were gangs of young lads who were fiercely loyal to their districts and fought all comers who trespassed without their say so. The Bengal Tigers are my favourites, purely down to the name, and there not being a Moston crew.
The tales of the fights are truly hair raising, with stabbings and beatings a daily occurrence and even shootings seemingly not uncommon.

Anyone with an interest in social history, the police and the judiciary at the turn of the century, or just anyone who likes reading about a good old fight will love this!
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
on 6 September 2009
Good read, obviously lots of research....was hopeful it would explain some unanswered family history questions I had...it hasn't yet but plenty of school for thought
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
on 28 November 2013
Great book, if you like this kind of reading then this is the book for you! Good story as well, as a great author!
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on 22 January 2013
I didnt know what to expect when I started reading this. I have an interest in all things 'historical', but the level of research done and the level of detail in this book was astounding. It's hard to imagine things so horrific happened so close to home. This is well worth a read and I became quite annoyed when I had to put this book down, and became even more annoying trying to recite certain tales from the book to friends who couldn't relate to my enthusiasm. It is however a book you need to concentrate on. It goes back-and-forth in time, and from area to area and back again, mentioning many gangs, streets, 'scuttlers', judges etc. This could easily be made into a must watch film, but they'd never fit enough detail into a few hours.
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