Stephen Basdeo has recently published a new book entitled The Lives and Exploits of the Most Noted Highwaymen, Rogues, and Murderers (2018). As its title suggests, the book is a compendium of short biographies of the most notorious criminals in Britain from the medieval period to the eighteenth century.
The book begins by discussing who Robin Hood could have been before relating the account of three other medieval outlaws, Adam Bell, Clim of the Clough, and William of Cloudesley, who allegedly flourished in Cumbria during the same period as Robin Hood.
The main focus of Basdeo’s book, however, is on early modern criminals. One criminal featured is Sawney Beane, who allegedly lived in the Scottish Highlands and, along with his family, robbed travellers on the road. More than this, however, Beane and his extended family, who were all the product of incest, ate their victims, and their story inspired went on to inspire the cult movie The Hills Have Eyes (1977).
Other famous rogues to appear in the book include the ‘Gentleman Highwayman’, Claude Du Vall, as well as the boy thief, Jack Sheppard, who escaped from prison four times, and whose story went on to inspire Charles Dickens’s Artful Dodger in Oliver Twist (1838).
Basdeo’s book has received some positive advanced reviews, with several of them remarking that it is a ‘thoroughly well-researched book’, and it will be of interest to anyone studying the history of crime in Britain.
Stephen Basdeo is an Assistant Professor at RIASA Leeds. With Dr Mark Truesdale (Cardiff Rare Book Collections), he is currently transcribing an unpublished Robin Hood novel from 1791 written by Poet Laureate, Robert Southey.