Juvenile Delinquency and Hooliganism

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Kathleen Alaimo

Explicit in the term "juvenile delinquency" and implicit in the word "hooliganism" is a youthful connotation. Thus, their history is linked to the histories of children, childhood, youth, and adolescence. Historians have found that juvenile misbehavior and adult concerns about such misbehavior are recurrent themes in most sources about children and youth throughout history. Many investigations of juvenile delinquency highlight the significant dissonance associated with life-cycle transitions. This approach stresses the importance of examining juvenile delinquency in terms of the generalized norms established for youth in particular times and places.

In the overall project of socializing children, which was historically undertaken by family, church, employers, and schools, juvenile delinquency often appears as a direct challenge. However, it may represent both historically evolving adult expectations and the efforts of young people to find expression within variably constrained environments. In other words, juvenile misbehavior not only has a history marked by changes and continuities but also one linked to larger social, economic, political, and intellectual forces. Whether juvenile misbehavior is viewed as troublesome but tolerable, or acute and worthy of societal anxiety or attention, depends largely on historical context.

Social historians have focused on the changing constellation of youthful activities and behaviors identified as "delinquent" by different societies at various points in their history. Social history explores the processes by which definitions of juvenile delinquency have emerged and changed over time. In addition, social history has illuminated meaningful patterns of juvenile delinquency, tied to social, cultural, economic, and even political conditions of long historical moments. Social historians' interest in the everyday, lived experience and the lives of the seemingly voiceless has brought the study of juvenile delinquency and hooliganism into the arena of historical inquiry concerned with such matters as deviance, social control, classification, authority, resistance, life-stage transition, as well as socioeconomic dislocations and popular politics. This approach enriches the body of work that addresses the legal, reform, and policy aspects of juvenile delinquency. Of particular importance to social history is the nature of the link between juvenile delinquency (as a cluster of behaviors as well as an ever-changing concept) and processes of social and political change such as those associated with industrialization, urbanization, compulsory schooling, mass political mobilization, and the bureaucratization of the helping professions.

Several debates mark the current state of scholarship on juvenile delinquency and hooliganism in European social history. One that should be laid to rest is the vexing question, parallel to that asked about childhood and adolescence, of whether juvenile delinquency is a modern invention. Though the term itself may be of relatively recent origin, the reality behind the concept has long been present in European society. While some of the field's pioneers (mostly modern historians) variously declared the invention of juvenile delinquency in the early nineteenth, the mid-nineteenth, the late nineteenth, and the early twentieth century, the later work of medievalists and early modern historians argues for significant continuity in this area. Medieval Christian moralists, Renaissance city fathers, and Reformation theologians all spoke with a combination of trepidation and indignation about wild, disrespectful, disruptive youth. Still the approaches to juvenile delinquency and the institutional mechanisms used to respond to juvenile misbehavior differed in important ways between the early modern and modern periods. The debate about whether juvenile delinquency is a modern invention is best transformed into a series of investigations that seek to highlight the different manifestations and causes of juvenile misbehavior and the different meanings of and responses to those behaviors at various moments and places in history. Indeed, rather than debate whether juvenile delinquency is a modern invention, social historians should pursue lines of inquiry that illuminate the variable role of ruralism and urbanism in shaping conceptions of juvenile delinquency.

A second compelling issue in the social history of juvenile delinquency and hooliganism is the role of class. The overwhelming body of literature concerning juvenile delinquency and hooliganism targets children of the poor and working classes. This visibility is the result of two distinct but related approaches. One approach views the concept of juvenile delinquency as an expression of class conflict, both cultural and economic. Seeking stability, productivity, and order, the elites (comprising lawmakers, property owners, moralists, and social reformers) judge as deviant behaviors seen as commonplace or expedient in working-class cultures. Of particular significance here is the tendency of working-class youth, whether apprentices or street traders or unskilled laborers, to acquire some measure of independence through work and as a result to create peer group leisure activities that violate the norms of youthful dependency. Also important is the pressure on poor children to beg, pick pockets, or sleep on the streets when family support fails, especially in times of economic instability. In the industrial age the high incidence of property crimes committed by working-class youths may confirm the class character of juvenile crime, whether due to the experience of deprivation or the failure to internalize the values of private property. Another approach draws on the theoretical contributions of Michel Foucault, treating the construction of juvenile delinquency as an exercise of power through the use of classifications and models not only by the state (that is, public authority) but also by elite social groups. Foucault's insistence that power is fundamentally about access to knowledge and control of language has been particularly influential. The ability to classify certain behaviors and experiences, impose those classifications on others, and mete out discipline on the basis on those classifications is clearly an exercise in power relations. To some extent, then, the very coining of the term juvenile delinquency, apparently in the nineteenth century, emerges as part of a broad codification, surveillance, and control function.

Reflecting the emphasis of the primary sources, social historians have explored juvenile delinquency as a pattern of behavior among poor and working-class youth, albeit a pattern identified by the middling and upper classes of modern European society. A refreshing alternative is provided by historians of late medieval and early modern European youth who have found elite youth of Italian cities and French youth of the craft classes behaving in riotous and violent ways, creating fear among authorities. Contemporaries sought explanations in cultural traditions, especially in the role of the peer youth group, the fabric of the local community, expectations about the transition to adulthood, and the masculine ideals of the age.

Gender is a third issue confronting historians of juvenile delinquency and hooliganism. Until recently most work on juvenile delinquency focused on boys and young men. Public records reveal that male offenders were largely responsible for juvenile thefts, assaults, public disturbances, and vagrancy. Not surprisingly, female offenders appear primarily in the context of charges of prostitution (both forced and "voluntary") though occasionally they were linked to begging and petty theft. The historical tendency to see the girl problem as one of (im)morality and sexuality had a direct impact on the methods of correction and treatment proposed for wayward girls. Given the overwhelming domination of the juvenile delinquency landscape by boys, one is tempted to wonder if delinquency should be analyzed as a male problem. Pamela Cox has broadened the picture by examining the policing of girls in twentieth-century Britain that took place not at the center of the newly created juvenile justice system but rather in peripheral institutions such as rescue homes and venereal disease hospitals. Girls have also emerged from the shadows of crime and misdemeanors in recent studies focusing on nineteenth-century girl gangs in England.

The role of "age" as a category of analysis is an especially significant issue. Juvenile delinquency is a "status" phenomenon where behaviors sanctioned as juvenile delinquency result from the age of the offender; curfew violation and school truancy are two examples of status offenses. Moreover, many acts considered delinquent in young people, such as smoking or alcohol consumption, are acceptable adult behaviors. Juvenile delinquency and hooliganism are specifically associated with adolescence and youth, and thus shed light on the tension inherent in the shift from child to adult. The very idea of juvenile delinquency draws attention to the conflicts over authority between adults and those who are no longer children but not yet fully independent adults. The concept of juvenile delinquency implies a distinctive type of social deviance, and is linked to notions about the equally distinctive role and character of youth in society. In the nineteenth century sharpened concern over juvenile delinquency prompted a wide variety of intrusive efforts to deal with what contemporaries regarded as a problem of epidemic proportions. Juvenile delinquents found themselves subjected to intensive control and "protection" well into their teen years. This extended subordination of youth did not go unchallenged as young inmates in juvenile prisons and reform schools articulated their resistance to punishment and rehabilitation. By tapping the disciplinary files of such institutions as well as the reports of twentieth-century probation officers, social historians may give voice to the delinquents themselves.


During Europe's Middle Ages, though criminal responsibility was generally set at age fourteen, responses to youthful deviance appear flexible. An extended period of youth contributed to an adult willingness to tolerate, within certain parameters, youthful delinquency. Thus, first offenders and local youth received some consideration, and those who participated in communal demonstrations of moral judgment, the charivari, also could expect societal tolerance and even approval. Evidence of medieval penal practices that took account of the youthfulness of offenders exists, such as reduced sentences and even separate prisons (as in fourteenth-century Nürnberg), though the latter was not common. Swedish provincial laws suggested those who had attained the age of fifteen, the age of civil and therefore criminal responsibility, could not be held fully responsible for their actions if they still lived under the supervision of a household guardian, whether parent or master.

Youthful male sexual violence pervaded medieval urban communities. Cities in late medieval France and Italy tolerated rape, including gang rape. The aggressive sexual behavior of youths was driven by the desire to become "men" and resentment against a tightly regulated sexual economy. Municipal brothels, whose clients consisted largely of unmarried young men, channeled the otherwise aggressive and rowdy behavior of young males. Also, groups of armed youths posed as brigands in many medieval settings, and the participation of elite young men suggests links between aristocratic culture, war-play, chivalry, and youth violence. Street gangs engaged in turf wars disrupted medieval cities, as in the late fourteenth century when Florence witnessed a clash between rival gangs named Berta and Magroni that lasted nearly two months.


"Reasons of misrule," "guardians of disorder"—such expressions capture the spirit of juvenile misbehavior and convey the ritualized nature of youth culture in early modern Europe. The misrule of youth had its rationality and young people, particularly males, carefully guarded the disorder. The mischief of nocturnal outings, the challenge of youthful insult and assault, and the irreligious pranks of the young constituted habitual behaviors not unexpected by adults, which were often winked at, but sometimes taken seriously enough to be punished through the formal mechanisms of court.

Two particularly relevant circumstances of the age shaped youthful behaviors and adult responses. First, the overwhelming majority of young people lived within the parameters of household-based service. The adolescent years were spent away from the parental home; young people learned skills under the watchful eye of a master or mistress, integrated to some degree into their service family, and enjoyed the company of peers at community social gatherings and during free time. Second, the impact of the Protestant and Catholic Reformations reshaped attitudes toward and responses to youthful misbehavior as concerns about righteous living and social stability intensified.

Appreciating the challenges posed by an extended period of youth, situated between childhood and full adulthood, early modern European society accommodated youths' need to experiment with authority arrangements. The long passage to adulthood offered opportunities for tolerable disorder, such as carnival and other festivals, the charivari, and celebrations connected to familial and community events such as weddings. These occasions gave young people, especially boys, roles to play in coordinating and carrying out collective gaiety, playful folly, or community judgment. Songs, parades, floats, costumes, and the all-important mask became part of the ritual tumult that accompanied Mardi Gras or a demonstration against an unacceptable marriage. These events offered opportunities for disorder within a controlled setting, allowing young people to role-play the adult practices of making judgments and policing the community.

Though early modern European society created room for young people to run riot, express insult, and topple the traditional order within the parameters of rural and urban community life, it would be misleading to suggest that young people rarely crossed the line into disruptive and destructive behavior spurned by the community. Smashed lanterns, thefts from orchards, attacks on animals (the "great cat massacre" by Paris print-shop apprentices re-created by Robert Darnton is perhaps best known), fruits and vegetables flung at passersby, and street fights such as the "boys' wars" reported in Aachen in 1757 are part of a rich picture of rough, wild, disruptive behavior carried out on the streets of towns and villages in daylight and at night. German, French, and English sources reveal wicked youth, drunk and cavorting amid bonfires and music, determined to commit some mischief before night's end. Though municipal edicts against nocturnal disorder existed, some cast with tones of intense emotion, the practice of municipal authorities was in fact relatively indulgent.

Judging such activities as youthful pranks that would come to an end with the arrival at adulthood, rather than criminal acts leading to a foreboding future, municipal authorities attended to such delinquency with certain, but not excessive, effort. In sixteenth-century German towns, little prisons or "cages" were built to provide short-term punishment for young people who had disturbed the peace or insulted the honor of a townsperson but who had not committed a serious crime. Apprentices in Rheinfelden swore an oath that they would not be noisy after the night bell rang. Even the ritual cherry wars, a distinctive type of fruit theft, provoked adult anger but not much in the form of repression. In London, despite an accumulated body of legal precedent that gave municipal authorities jurisdiction over apprentices, punishment was mild. Most problems with insubordination by apprentices were handled not in the Mayor's Court but at the level below in the Chamberlain's Court. The emphasis was on arbitration and the chamberlain acted less as judge and more as mediator. Rather than punish, which was within his authority, the chamberlain was more likely to reprimand and compel the disputants to reach a compromise outside of court. Many cases never made it beyond the chamberlain's clerk who also worked to mediate disputes between masters and apprentices. Still London did have two prisons, known as "Little-Ease" due to their low ceilings, for apprentices who had been referred by the chamberlain for stubborn indiscipline.

The Protestant and Catholic Reformation affected adult responses to juvenile delinquency. As children belonged to both God and society, the wicked and disobedient would be punished by both, that is in the afterlife and during the earthly life. Calvinist catechism was most explicit on this point, threatening everlasting pain as well as a miserable life. In seeking to close down a brothel, late-sixteenth-century church leaders in Basel expressed a zero-tolerance view: youth should never be forgiven, especially for sins of pleasure, but should be controlled through punishment. Municipal concern over disturbance of the nighttime peace intensified during the Reformation period, as did edicts seeking to control disruptive noises during religious services. Particular concern focused on alleged sexuality immorality. Preachers targeted such traditional courtship practices as dancing and playing pranks on girls to secure their attention, as well as popular nuptial rituals whereby young bachelors publicly taunted the newly married couple with a disruptive yodeling. As zealous ecclesiastics targeted youthful immorality, the young responded with hooliganish behavior, disrupting the services of preachers and staging nocturnal attacks on priests. Municipal authorities responded to pressure from churchmen with laws such as those in Württemberg that threatened escalating punishments for those caught repeatedly disturbing the peace.

In early modern Europe, disorderly youthful behaviors were generally either part of a repertoire of pranks intended to notify the adult world that play had rough edges or part of ritualized popular culture such as carnival and charivari that provided opportunities for controlled disorder by those who could still legitimately get away with such collective madness. In addition, male youth violence was expressed around issues of territoriality and sexual control of the local female population. Rural youth fraternities regularly engaged in brawls with outsiders who sought to court "their girls" and did not hesitate to turn the knife from a traditional tool into a weapon.

Paul Griffiths has persuasively argued that in early modern England youth constituted a "threatening subgroup" when their behavior challenged adult authority, particularly in the context of service. Citing numerous seventeenth-century sources, Griffiths finds English moralists fraught with anxiety about the dangers, mischief, and deviance of youth but at the same time hopeful that youth could be directed to make the right choices for the future. Griffiths questions the widely held view that youthful rituals of misrule were approved or at least tolerated by adult society, citing increasing complaints by residents and increasing arrests of young people engaged in festive rioting on May Day or Shrove Tuesday. At the center of his analysis is a more nuanced and textured reading of early modern youth culture, a reading that rejects the image of young people as strictly enclosed in the household and integrated into a mixed age social world through the practice of apprenticeship. Though most young people lived in service they were not completely shackled by this situation, but rather had some opportunities for autonomy within and outside the household. Rather than pranks or community-tolerated misrule, youthful disorder emerges as serious deviance intended to challenge adult authority. The insubordination of youth, especially in the context of service, appears then as a problem of socialization in the transition from childhood to adulthood, a problem rooted in the difficulty of reorganizing the balance between work and play and redefining the meaning of time. The seriousness of this problem is illustrated in the response of authorities, especially those of the urban areas where relatively large populations of young people existed. Though not literally labeled "juvenile delinquency," Griffiths identifies a "youth problem" in the discourse and practices of early modern English authorities.

Interpreted through a "politics of age" framework, the generally public punishments meted out to disobedient apprentices emerge as carefully planned efforts to visibly demonstrate the authority of the household, the master, and the community. When an early-seventeenth-century London fishmonger's apprentices wreaked havoc in the marketplace by throwing fish, swearing, attacking customers, and disrupting business, the fishmonger's court took action, arranging an "open" punishment for the apprentices. An audience of apprentices was gathered to witness the lecture and whipping administered to the wild boys. Griffiths also argues that anxiety about "masterless" young people resulted in the criminalization of independent youth who resisted service. Between 1623 and 1631, a young Jane Sellars was repeatedly detained, charged with vagrancy, whipped, and banished for failing to remain in service. From charges of idleness and vagrancy to charges of petty theft and illegitimacy, Sellars was eventually designated a felon. The last mention of Jane Sellars is an order for execution recorded in December 1631. Griffiths argues that young people who were "at their own hand" or "out of service" constituted a threat to order and stability in early modern England because they placed themselves outside the institutions of socialization and control.

While early modern European society seems to have been comparatively tolerant of youthful mischief, evidence of severe punishment can be found. In Zurich, between 1500 and 1750, more than one hundred young people were executed for offenses including bestiality, sodomy, theft, arson and homicide. In an age when burning at the stake, being buried alive, and drowning were still common forms of execution for notably heinous crimes, young people were generally beheaded, a form of punishment considered more humane. Still the execution of a Hamburg boy, age eleven, for throwing a stone through the window of a Hansa official's house seems extreme. Moreover, the use of charitable institutions, such as orphanages, as settings for correctional measures suggests the need to look carefully at the ways in which early modern societies may have masked their treatment of juveniles whose behavior seemed to require punishment or reform. For example, Seville's eighteenth-century asylum for street waifs also served as a depot for delinquent children committed by family members or public authorities.

In general, however, early modern Europeans appear more willing than their descendants to accept youth as an age when natural and social inclinations required outlets for the expression of disorder. This tolerance extended primarily to boys, as girls were both formally and informally constrained from moving about freely outside the household, particularly at night. Indeed, the concerns of Protestant Reformers exacerbated the social restrictions on girls. Nonetheless, youthful deviance was not generally considered criminal and punishments, even those meted out by judicial or other supervising bodies, were moderate and generally symbolic. The most important concern seems to have been maintenance of order within the household world of service. Additionally, it should be noted that the greater mixing of younger and older youths not only meant broader alliances for mischief, such as the youth abbeys of early modern France, but also reduced the age-specific character of such mischief. Youth culture encompassed the teens and twenties and any associated deviance clearly had a broad age base. Thus the early-eighteenth-century Paris print-shop cat massacre comes down to us as the work of apprentices and journeymen, albeit led by the apprentices.

By the eighteenth century, nocturnal disturbances, especially in the cities, stood less chance of being overlooked. Concern with street safety resulted in the installation of lanterns and the deployment of police patrols. The goal of municipal order clashed with disruptive youth behaviors. Gangs of well-to-do young men, such as the Mohocks of London, troubled adult society with their random, belligerent, rakish behavior. Nor were rural environs immune to these concerns, as evidenced by the presence of eighteenth-century Irish "peasant societies" made up of young men who attacked enclosures. That these groups took names (Whiteboys, Oakboys) implies a degree of collective identity.

Shaped by local social and economic networks, generally more flexible and tolerant, certainly less bureaucratic and pessimistic, early modern European attitudes toward the varied expressions of youthful mischief and hooliganism began to change during the eighteenth century. The slide toward labeling such behaviors as "juvenile delinquency" and seeing in them signs of serious social danger, reflections of deep economic dislocation, and hints of a lifetime of criminality shaped much of the next century.


By the nineteenth century, an increasingly worried public viewed youthful misbehavior as deviant and even "criminal." Early modern reactions of toleration, mild rebuke, and moral exhortation had been rooted in the conviction that youthful disorder would be outgrown. In contrast, the nineteenth century witnessed the growth of differentiated, age-specific institutions intended to correct, punish, and reform delinquents over increasingly long periods of incarceration or surveillance. The conceptualization, codification, and bureaucratization of the "problem" of juvenile delinquency mark the modern experience of youthful hooliganism.

Social historians and others have mined the nineteenth century searching for patterns of delinquent behaviors, profiles of delinquent youths, sources of adult anxieties, and trends in approaches to juvenile corrections. Efforts to identify "turning points" in the evolution of a new, more anxious view of juvenile delinquency and attempts to assess the dual impact of urbanization and industrialization have figured prominently in many studies. Social historians have considered the role of the state, especially the judicial, police, and welfare functions. Legal thinking influenced by the ideology of childhood, the creation of professional municipal policing, and the expansion of publicly funded institutions designed to envelop the juvenile delinquent all abetted the social construction of juvenile delinquency. Social historians have not only scrutinized the cycles of cultural anxiety that contributed to revised definitions of juvenile delinquency but also examined the unfolding of the ideologies of childhood and adolescence during the nineteenth century.

Nineteenth-century crime statistics are difficult to use for arriving at solid conclusions regarding the incidence of youth crime, rates of change in youth crime, or the proportion of youth to adult crime. The science of statistics and the development of a state statistical bureaucracy varied across Europe. More importantly, as definitions of "juvenile" and "crime" changed over time, the statistics measured different phenomena. During the nineteenth century, new categories of offenses emerged especially in the area of juvenile behavior. In addition, the age-specificity of the statistics varies over time and from place to place. If various quantitative measures indicate an apparent increase in what nineteenth-century Europeans considered the "problem" of juvenile delinquency, then what does this reveal about the activities of youth, the anxieties of adults, the norms of society and the role of the state (including police, courts, prisons, and welfare institutions)?

The French political cartoonist, artist, and social critic Honoré Daumier captured adult anxieties about precocious urban childhood in an 1848 drawing for the newspaper Le Charivari. Amid the revolutionary atmosphere of Paris, Daumier's Paris Street Urchins in the Tuileries portrayed street children as participants in the overthrow of the monarchy. By the middle of the nineteenth century, Europe's middle classes appeared bewildered, unable to distinguish between deprived and depraved children. Urchins, street arabs, pickpockets, gamins, vagrants, orphans all seemed dangerous and endangered. Newspaper reports of accused children brought before Parisian courts during the July Monarchy juxtaposed natural innocence and unnatural precocity in an effort to navigate the murky terrain created by an evolving ideology of childhood and an increasing anxiety about the rising incidence of juvenile crime. By the middle decades of the nineteenth century, a "juvenile delinquent" may well have violated the criminal code but more likely violated a bourgeois standard of appropriate behavior, thereby committing an "offense" rather than a crime. As such offenses became increasingly codified and linked to penal corrections, the incidence of juvenile delinquency increased.

Industrial urbanization, the wage economy, migration, and increased illegitimacy contributed to making juvenile delinquency a social problem of growing dimensions in the nineteenth century. As the percentage of young people in the European population rose, fears of precocious children and delinquent youth abounded. Moreover, as cities and towns attracted ever-larger populations of young workers and would-be workers, concerns about the decline of apprenticeships and the crafts and the concomitant rise of unskilled labor fueled fears of idle, and therefore unruly, youth. Wage-earning youth struck an independent and threatening image as potential gamblers and consumers of alcohol and tobacco. Industrial child labor exacerbated worries of stolen childhoods and rising immorality among children trapped in the vicious world of early factories. Not surprisingly, runaways and orphans constituted a large portion of those identified by authorities as "delinquents." In mid-nineteenth-century France, vagrancy and begging constituted over 50 percent of juvenile crime committed by boys. Girls were most often charged with prostitution and begging, the former being equivalent to a vagrancy charge for boys. In this context, homelessness and unemployment became "crimes" and the basis for commitment to a house of correction.

The bourgeois ideology of childhood shaped the nineteenth-century history of juvenile delinquency. It compelled a rethinking of the relationship between children and crime, raising questions about responsibility and discernment, punishment and rehabilitation. The notion spread that while children might not be fully responsible for their crimes, whether heinous or simply mischievous, they were surely a distinct population of offenders who required age-specific punishment and correction. Though children might be considered innocent of evil intent due to their age, adult observers could not help but conclude that children were more than capable of committing crimes and disturbances. The ideal of innocence clashed with the reality of vice; adults found the solution to this contradiction by creating distinct judicial and correctional methods tied to the youthfulness of offenders.

There is an important irony here. Innocence and inexperience emerged as the hallmarks of true childhood, and the delinquent child stood as either an unnatural aberration or a sympathetic victim of poverty or neglect or abuse in need of rescue. Relieving children of criminal responsibility for their mischief, adult authorities compromised the autonomy of young people. Removed from the adult criminal justice system, including its prisons, juvenile delinquents became a class apart, garnering so much special attention it could be smothering. Nineteenth-century contemporaries constructed the problem of juvenile delinquency, then proposed to reform, rescue, and protect "at-risk" children. The very uniqueness of children brought greater scrutiny, restriction, and confinement to those young people who seemed to confound the idealized image of the innocent and dependent child.

As early as the first two decades of the nineteenth century, English judges demonstrated a certain sympathy for child criminals. Between 1801 and 1836, 104 children received death sentences at the Old Bailey court though in fact none of these children was executed. An 1828 inquiry found that many judges were reluctant to bring children to trial because many crimes carried capital punishment sentences. The reform movement against capital punishment drew a good deal of its power from cases involving juveniles, no doubt influenced by the newly emerging ideology of childhood. The 1828 report also called for the development of a separate prison system for children. Three further developments occurred in England during the first half of the nineteenth century. First, many previously indictable crimes (that is, those tried by a jury) became subject to summary jurisdiction (that is, sentencing by a judge). Second, punishments meted out to child offenders became relatively less severe. Third, new types of crimes emerged as previously tolerated behaviors became defined as offenses. The interaction of these developments contributed to the "problem" of juvenile delinquency. In essence, more juveniles were punished more often, and for a wider range of mischief, but punishments were less severe. Still debated is the precise timing of this shift, with various historians pointing to the periods of 1790–1830, 1830s–1840s, or the 1850s. Peter King's analysis of English county court records demonstrates that in the early nineteenth century summary jurisdiction sharply increased the number of juveniles processed by the judicial system and sent into the correctional system. The relative absence of juveniles from the lists of indicted criminals, noticeable by the mid-1820s, is thus misleading when trying to identify the origins of the "problem" juvenile delinquency. By midcentury, in England, as elsewhere in western Europe, new institutions reserved exclusively for juvenile offenders dotted the landscape: Parkhurst Prison for boys in England, La Petite Roquette and Les Madelonettes in France.

Court records, police reports, and newspapers reveal the kinds of offences nineteenth-century juveniles committed. Crimes against property constitute a significant area of youthful mischief, especially in the case of boys. This includes pickpocketing, pilfering, vandalism, simple theft, and larceny. In Sweden in 1841, 93 percent of offenders under age fifteen had committed property offenses involving pickpocketing, theft, and burglary. Even for girls, theft accounted for all but one offense in this age group. By the latter decades of the nineteenth century, theft became the most common crime among boys, replacing vagrancy. In France, 4,718 of 5,800 youth cases judged in 1864 concerned simple thefts. Often these thefts involved goods of little value, reflecting perhaps the growth of consumer goods in European society. References to stealing handkerchiefs abound in the court testimony of young thieves in 1830s' London. Vagrancy, assault, premarital sex, and public disorder were other common juvenile crimes. In Sweden, the majority (fifty-one of seventy-five) of those charged with premarital sex in 1841 were female. As concern for public order intensified, bringing with it a great interest in cleaning up the urban environment, numerous public disturbance and curfew violations surfaced. Use of fireworks, "dangerous play," swearing in public, and loitering in groups (gangs) could all lead to detention of juveniles in the later decades of the nineteenth century.

Child thieves who worked the streets and alleys of major cities participated in an adult network of criminality that included those who fenced stolen goods and corrupt police who closed their eyes to the dishonesty of certain pawnbrokers and publicans in exchange for a part of the take. Such child offenders frequently emerge as victims of adult manipulation, including their neglectful or absent parents. As urban reform took hold, including the razing of congested alleys and winding streets in both London and Paris, the physical environment that had shielded young pickpockets gradually faded. The introduction of a more professional police presence in the second half of the nineteenth century also altered the environment in some municipalities. The creation of institutions designed to "protect" delinquent or at-risk juveniles added further to the changing world of juvenile criminality.

During the nineteenth century, the age for being conditionally responsible for criminal actions gradually increased, from fourteen to sixteen to eighteen years of age. Correctional methods evolved from imprisonment with adults and transportation to separate children's prisons, agricultural colonies, and houses of correction to schoollike reformatories and probationary surveillance by state guardians. Some of the earliest reform schools designed for juvenile delinquents were established in Belgium beginning in 1848, such as those at Ruysselede and Beernem. In general, punishment moved in the direction of distinguishing young offenders on the basis of age and developing methods considered age sensitive.

The nineteenth-century construction of juvenile delinquency harbored several contradictions, including the conflicting image of juvenile delinquents as threats to society and as victims of socioeconomic dislocations and/or family dysfunction. Though the two images coexisted through much of the nineteenth century, some historians have suggested that the delinquent-as-victim image came to predominate by the 1870s to 1880s. This shift coincided with major efforts on the part of states to implement programs designed to materially improve the lives of young people. Across Europe, though the timing varies from place to place, child labor laws and compulsory schooling laws converged toward the end of the century to produce a new lifestyle for children of the working classes. Concerns about child endangerment, both physical and moral, inspired laws regarding child protection. Many such laws targeted poor parents, not society, as the locus of neglect, cruelty, abandonment, and abuse. With this development, delinquent children were seen as victims of parental neglect or abuse, and therefore in need of being saved from such deplorable conditions. In many European countries, the fairly new prisons for children were replaced by youth reformation institutions, intended to be more like schools and less like prisons.

Nineteenth-century juvenile delinquency discourse and practice reveals the larger cultural trend toward discipline of juvenile nonconformity and independence. The growth of private and public agencies to carry out plans for punishment, correction, and reformation confirms this. Moreover, the quantitative evidence is unequivocal in demonstrating a pattern of increase in the number and percentage of young people caught in the web of institutions created to control, reprimand, and rehabilitate them. In the late 1820s, fewer than one hundred youths per year were sent to houses of correction in France, while that number jumped to close to three thousand per year in the early 1870s. In England, reformatory schools and industrial schools were created in 1854 and 1857 to handle convicted young offenders as well as those deemed in need of protection. Similar institutions appeared in Scotland and Ireland. In the decades after 1870 Prussia experienced a severe shortage of reformatory space as the number committed to such institutions skyrocketed. A fivefold increase in Prussian commitments to correctional education occurred between 1900 and 1914.

Had hooliganism spread so widely among European youth that it warranted these institutional responses? Had adult society become obsessed with the urge to "discipline and punish" the young? In the early modern period, most juvenile offenders were handled through the institutions of household and community; serious offenders were treated within the parameters of the adult system of criminal justice. And while adult complaints about youthful mischief abounded, there is little evidence of a profound sense of panic or crisis associated with juvenile behavior in the early modern period. By the nineteenth century, the elaborate efforts made to provide separate treatment for a seemingly vast and growing population of juvenile delinquents strongly suggests the emergence of a crisis surrounding the issue of youth behavior. Though the generous presumption of childhood innocence (at least as an ideal) lay at the heart of the formal provision of a separate system for juveniles, the result was to create a publicly recognized social problem of compelling intensity. This panic brought more and more juveniles under the vigilant eye of adult society. As European society developed age-sensitive institutions to treat the juvenile delinquent, reluctance to bring large numbers of young people before the civil authorities waned. This line of development culminated with legislation such as the Children's Act of 1908 in England and 1912 laws in France and Belgium creating special juvenile courts and auxiliary support institutions and personnel to aid in the prevention of juvenile delinquency.

Around 1900 heated cries about the crisis of juvenile delinquency rose again, perhaps reflecting the new standards of youth behavior associated with the evolving notion of adolescence and the emergence of a youth-oriented culture of leisure. Ironically, this new wave of anxiety coincided with a trend toward conformity in youth behavior as measured by the greater involvement of young people in structured, adult-run activities (for example, extended schooling and youth groups). One explanation for this wave of anxiety was the popularization of the psychology of adolescence which suggested that all young people were potentially troubled and troublesome. Though a class bias still placed poor and working-class youth at a disadvantage, the psychology of adolescence implied that the experience of puberty itself contained the seeds for rebellion, conflict, and misbehavior. Every adolescent was a potential delinquent in need of supervision and guidance. At the turn of the century, a pervasive wave of anxiety about the behavior of youth spread across Europe. Demographic and political developments heightened awareness of the quality and quantity of Europe's youth. In addition, the commercialization of leisure with the possibilities it offered young workers to define themselves through clothing, smoking, and dancing further contributed to that anxiety.

The model of adolescence popularized by social science experts, reformers, and bureaucrats promoted adult vigilance and youthful dependency. This model clashed with working-class experience and as a result these youths offered a point of resistance to the imposition of conformity. As the school-leaving age increased, the truancy of juveniles was often an assertion of independence and of a preference for work over school. Working-class memoirs and oral histories confirm that activities regarded as criminal and delinquent by police authorities appeared to working-class youths as so many examples of "larking about."

The street stood at the center of much young working-class social life where street-corner gambling, scuffles between neighboring gangs defending their territory, and girls, football, and petty theft all coexisted. In Vienna middle-class teachers and scout leaders claimed bands of wild working class youth (Platten) filled the streets. In Manchester working-class girls formed part of the scuttlers' world of "disorderly" conduct as weekend promenading transformed the streets into youth-dominated spaces. In Paris newspapers reported the rise of the apache, a sort of working-class version of a rake. In Russia juvenile crime (bezprizorniki) inspired fear in law-abiding residents of St. Petersburg who sensed that every juvenile delinquent was a potential hooligan bent on defying not only adults but also civilization itself. As hooligans, older male teens roamed St. Petersburg's streets, harassed pedestrians, shouted obscenities, carried brass knuckles, engaged in public drunkenness, threw rocks, invaded respectable neighborhoods, and projected a threatening image.

The years of World War I witnessed a sharp increase in the incidence of juvenile delinquency as European society experienced disruption in all facets of life. Soldiering fathers, working mothers, food shortages, and early release from school contributed to youth disorderliness. In Germany fears about unsupervised youths with money led military authorities to impose a savings program to limit their spending. In Hamburg officials even tried to regulate attendance at shows and smoking in public. In England juveniles under age sixteen charged with crimes increased during the war years from 37,500 to 51,000 per year.

The postwar period introduced some new direction in adult responses to juvenile delinquency. Although theories of adolescent development and the corollary of adult guidance were considered universal in application, working-class youths did not consistently attain the satisfactory outcomes signaled by conformity and dependence. Working-class girls seemed to defy "respectable" norms of behavior when it came to appearance and sexual habits. Confronting a decline in skilled jobs, resistant to continued schooling, trapped in "dead-end" jobs, sensitive to the pull of extreme political groups, and attracted by the freedom of the streets and its night life, working-class youths in the 1920s and 1930s posed a formidable challenge to those who sought a well-regulated, orderly youth experience. An army of professional youth workers, including mental health experts, developed strategies to identify and treat children and young people who challenged the model. By 1920 conventional explanations of juvenile delinquency focusing on deprivation and environment competed with the growing belief that delinquency had its roots in individual psychological dysfunction. By the mid-1920s Britain had borrowed the child guidance clinic innovation from the United States, as the therapeutic approach to juvenile delinquency spread throughout Europe. Weimar Germany adopted new legislation, including the National Juvenile Justice Act (1923) and the National Youth Welfare Act (1924), based on acceptance of a medicalized model of juvenile delinquency. Increasingly, heredity, environment, and personality were seen as interacting forces that could lead to mental and behavioral problems under certain circumstances of social instability. In England the Children and Young Persons Act of 1933 expressed the new effort by replacing discipline and punishment with discipline, welfare, and treatment. The old distinction between reform schools and industrial schools disappeared under a new rubric, "approved schools," intended to house delinquent, neglected, and at-risk youths. In Fascist Italy observation centers maintained a close surveillance of the youth population in an effort at delinquency prevention.

Juvenile delinquency statistics for the 1920s and 1930s confirm the continued centrality of property crime, especially petty theft. In 1928 Hamburg, fourteen- to sixteen-year-olds convicted of crimes were overwhelmingly convicted for property offences: 77 percent of boys convicted and 83 percent of girls convicted. Bicycle thefts were widespread while girls most often shoplifted from department stores or stole from their domestic employers. As the Depression set in, juvenile theft increased in many places. However, crimes against the state and public disorder committed by juveniles, usually males, increased too, especially in states where political tensions ran high. Thus in Hamburg juveniles accused of trespass, obstruction, and disturbance of the peace increased. Fears of cliques, wild hiking clubs of working-class adolescents, permeated Germany in the late 1920s. At the same time, panic over European cultural changes involving the popularity of dance, jazz ("Negro music"), cinema, and pulp fiction contributed to a perception of youthful immorality and led to legislation such as the 1926 German Law for the Protection of Minors against Smutty and Trashy Literature.

Trends set earlier in the century continued in the 1940s and 1950s. World War II ushered in an era of increased juvenile crime; explanations centered on the "broken homes" that resulted from the disruptions of war. Though most juvenile crime in the immediate postwar period seemed to be related to poverty and dislocation, some observers worried about the long-term moral impact of such "waywardness." In the later 1940s and 1950s, incidences of recorded juvenile delinquency were fueled by factors as diverse as youths' economic situation, over-surveillance of youth behavior, a widening psychological definition of delinquency, a treatment-oriented juvenile justice system, and the temptations of popular culture.

The optimism of the postwar period supported approaches to juvenile delinquency, real and imaged, that focused on social reconstruction. In Great Britain the Criminal Justice Act of 1948 proposed better ways to treat youth offenders, most notably by placing severe restrictions of the use of imprisonment, abolishing corporal punishment, and emphasizing the use of probation and residential training. The Federal Republic of Germany developed annual Youth Plans beginning in 1950 and attempted a thorough reform of its correctional practices, with an emphasis on voluntary commitments, family placements, protective supervision, and especially prevention of juvenile delinquency through youth activities and psychotherapy.

By the 1960s the emergence of an outspoken youth culture, defiant of adult authority and flaunting conventions of sexual morality, challenged the twentieth-century ideal of a conformist, regulated youth. This mostly bourgeois youth rebellion affirmed traditional working-class youth resistance to adult controls on autonomy. Music and fashion tended to bridge the chasm of class that had typically divided European youth. French working-class youth in the post-1960s tended to define themselves more in terms of their youthfulness and less in terms of class differentiation that had characterized pre-1960s gangs, promoting a vision of universal, natural youth. A wave of hooliganism (teppismo) swept Italy in the early 1960s involving vandalism of streetlights, "exhibitionist" fashion, street rowdiness, and car thefts. The work of teenage boys, these incidences of delinquency coincided with economic prosperity and point to the growing generation gap.

Ironically, 1960s youth turbulence seemed to confirm the idea of the fundamentally wild nature of adolescent development, especially in the area of sexuality. And in an environment of widespread material well-being and social services, factors such as poverty and family breakdown could no longer be held accountable for juvenile delinquency. With the therapeutic model in crisis, some advocated a return to a more tolerant approach to youthful misbehavior, reminiscent of the early modern world. Scandinavian studies found that to some extent juvenile crime as a stage of life phenomenon was "statistically normal." Social scientists advocated young people's right to self-identification. A nascent child's rights movement developed in Europe too. Applied to the issue of juvenile corrections, the idea that young people have rights has led to a reconsideration of all the measures associated with treating juvenile offenders as though the right to care and protection obviated the right to due process.

Modern European society has seemingly created a more rigid world for its youth, despite the disappearance of arranged marriages and the development of an independent youth culture. Formal schooling and organized leisure have increasingly come to shape young people's lives. At the same time, young Europeans have more pocket money than ever before and are more free to spend it as they wish. The paradoxes are relevant for understanding the evolution of juvenile delinquency and adult responses to it. Despite highly publicized but nonetheless rare instances of violent juvenile crime (child murderers also existed in previous centuries), hooliganism and juvenile delinquency remain very much tied to definitions orchestrated by adults. Laws imposing helmets on teenage Italian motorcyclists have been flouted by youths who say the helmets ruin their hairstyles and who resent adults making ageist laws. What counts as offense very much depends on demographics, cultural norms, institutional developments, political and economic environments, as well as the constantly tested hierarchy regulating adult-child relations. In contemporary Europe, discussions of hooliganism and juvenile delinquency often center on immigrant and minority youth on the one hand and right-wing youth on the other. Waywardness, disorderliness, and mischief appear as threads of continuity in the lives of European youth, while the social meaning of these behaviors reflect adult anxieties about the stability of family, community, and state.

See alsoThe European Marriage Pattern (volume 2);Street Life and City Space (volume 2);The Welfare State (volume 2);Youth and Adolescence (volume 4);Festivals (volume 5); andPolicing Leisure (volume 5); and other articles in this section.


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