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date: 26 September 2020

Abstract and Keywords

In the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries servants ordering goods falsely in the names of their masters and criminals posing as wealthy customers defrauded tradespeople alongside outright shoplifters and thieves. . The institution of harsh shoplifting laws in the 1600s and trade protection societies’ attempts at self-policing in the 1700s failed to stem the tide. Developments in marketing like open displays, bazaars, and the department store multiplied the opportunities for crime and led to an atmosphere of fraud that encouraged crime by both retailer and consumer. The Victorian medicalization of crime created the “kleptomaniac,” whose cases dominated the debate over shoplifting from the late nineteenth to the twentieth centuries. Newer scholarship on retail crime promises to balance studies of the gendered nature of shoplifting and the historical emphasis on the middle classes by reintroducing the importance of the less visible working-class retail criminal and expanding beyond the department store–centered focus.

Keywords: retail crime, shoplifting, department store, fraud, consumer

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