John Bright’s poacher: poaching, politics and the illicit trade in live game in early Victorian England

Osborne, Harvey (2018) John Bright’s poacher: poaching, politics and the illicit trade in live game in early Victorian England. Agricultural History Review, 66 (2). pp. 215-237. ISSN 0002-1490

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This article takes as its subject the life and career of Frederick Gowing, once described as ‘the greatest poacher in England’. Gowing’s reputation as a professional poacher brought him to national attention during the Anti-Corn Law League’s populist campaign against the Game Laws of the 1840s, when he provided evidence damaging to the landed interest at the 1845 Select Committee on the Game Laws. His unusually well-documented career reveals otherwise concealed and unknown features of commercial poaching in late Georgian and early Victorian England. Although in some ways an archetypal ‘Victorian poacher’ and ‘social criminal’, Gowing’s experiences in the illegal trade in game, which included poaching breeding-stock on behalf of game-preservers themselves as well as supplying urban markets with dead game, illustrates the complexity of the poaching industry of the nineteenth century as well as the liminal and often ambiguous position of the poacher in society. Gowing’s later transition from convicted poacher to respectable employment as a gamekeeper on a large estate in the English midlands further underlines the ambivalent and sometimes paradoxical relationship between poaching and gamekeeping in nineteenth-century England.

Item Type: Article
Uncontrolled Keywords: poaching, John Bright, Victorian poacher, social criminal
Subjects: D History General and Old World > DA Great Britain
Divisions: Faculty of Arts, Business & Applied Social Science > Department of Arts & Humanities
Depositing User: David Upson-Dale
Date Deposited: 17 Jan 2019 14:30
Last Modified: 01 Nov 2021 01:38

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