Charles Dickens' "Oliver Twist", with Fagin, Sykes, the Artful Dodger and children trained as pickpockets and sent out as burglars' accomplices, provides an unforgettable fictional image of the Victorian underworld. "Fagin's Children" is an account of the reality of child crime in 19th-century England and the reaction of the authorities to it. It reveals the poverty and misery of many children's lives in the growing industrial cities of Britain and explores the changing attitudes of the authorities towards the problem. Inevitably most is known about children who were arrested. While few children were hanged after 1800, their treatment ranged from whipping to imprisonment, sometimes in the hulks, and transportation. Increasingly, elements of training and reclamation came into a system principally aimed at punishment.
Jeannie Duckworth has written widely on 19th century crime.