on 10 August 2012
Smuggling history has come along way since the second world war and eg Henry Shore's romantic drivel, which with others of its ilk, distorted for decades our view of the subject. There were exceptions of course like Russel Oakley's 1944 book on Christchurch, Bourne Heath and the New Forest. But even he was deleteriosly influenced by romantic notions. As such ie the lack of seriously readable works, its development has been similar to piracy and early modern warfare. We even now have books like Jeremy Rowett's deeply penetrating study of The Smuggler's Banker showing how it was financed.
I recommend McCooey's work for four reasons. Firstly it has the most detailed treatment of customs tax history (briefly from the Plantagenets up to the period dealt with) as a background to why the population found smuggling so attractive. Secondly it describes in detail all the customs posts, offices and duties of the customs and excise officers from the late 17th century and how few there were in covering such wide areas. Both these positive features aren't so well developed elsewhere in smuggling literature. Thirdly there is huge detail on the Hawkhurst Gang, the most murderous cause celebre in British smuggling history, worse even than the skirmish near Hunstanton and the itimidation in Polperro. Fourthly he uses the word 'gang' and 'smuggling gangs' which puts smugglers in context in 2012 as these money making shoremen could be extremely violent.
Recommended for students and general readers