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John Walker - Convicted for Stealing Onions
Bedford 1873


A case study for Key Stage 2, The Victorians and Key Stage 3, Britain 1750 " 1900 and GCSE History

This case study looks at the sentence given to a man caught stealing in the 19th century. It deals with a typical crime carried out by an habitual criminal.

It deals with a number of issues in the history of crime and punishment in the 19th century.

Key Stage 2: The Victorians


  • To find out from a case reconstruction what happened in Victorian courts
  • To see how the reconstruction is supported by the evidence
  • To understand why stealing of crops was so common in the Victorian countryside
  • To understand how the offenders were treated by the authorities
  • To understand the attitudes of Victorian farmers to theft of small amounts of their crops
  • To consider the differences between treatment of offenders then and now
  • To role play the situation using the available evidence

Key Stage 3: Britain 1750 - 1900

  • To understand the extent to which Walker's means of earning a living, the conditions under which he worked, the family home and the sentence he was given were typical of the later 19th century in the English countryside
  • To use the primary and secondary evidence in order to draw conclusions about the situation.