Would you become a Highwayman? Explaining the Causes of Crime
Don’t worry. This isn’t an inducement to commit crime. It’s about making a textbook activity work much better by getting students out from behind their desks, moving about and thinking on their feet. It’s another way of carrying out the activity on page 85 of the SHP Crime and Punishment book, which asks students to identify the reasons why highway robbery developed and then why it faded away.
By the end of the activity students should be able to:
- explain why highway robbery developed in the 1700s and why it faded away within a century
- identify the roles of the individual factors in the development of highway robbery and assess their relative importance
1. You need either a set of 14 large, clearly written cards that identify the factors below or a set of tabards for students to wear, each with one of the factors clearly visible on it.
The factors are:
- Cheap Horses
- Cheap guns
- Mounted patrols set up around London.
- The roads became much busier.
- More people had their own coaches.
- Rewards offered to informers for catching highwaymen.
- Stagecoaches carried people around the country.
- No police. Local constables did not travel far.
- More people used banks instead of carrying lots of money
- JPs stopped licensing taverns.
- Houses were built on open land.
- Many open, lonely areas outside towns
- Taverns were good places to hide and sell loot.
- Soldiers home from wars could not find work.
2. Choose students to hold the factor cards or wear the tabards. They then stand in a line at the front of the room.
3. At one side of the room have a poster saying ‘Factors encouraging highway robbery’ and at the other a poster saying ‘Factors against highway robbery’
1. The rest of the class are potential highwaymen. Their task is to decide which of the factors is encouraging them to take up robbery and which are not. Therefore this is a sorting activity – students have to suggest which factors go to which side of the room. You can do this by asking the class for suggestions or by taking each factor in turn and having a class vote on which side of the room that factor should move to.
2. Now you have two groups of factors and you can discuss which might have been the most important factors in the development of highway robbery and in its decline. Ask students to make suggestions and put forward arguments. This will again become much more concrete if you move the group around so they are ranked physically in a row to simulate importance or split into smaller groups of the more and less important factors.
3. Look at the two groups of factors – can the class suggest whether any pair up? The pairs can show, for example, that the authorities were taking action to deal with specific problems e.g. use of taverns to hide and sell loot and later refusal of JPs to licence taverns or that circumstances changed which negated helpful circumstances e.g. open spaces around towns were built on, reducing the opportunities for highwaymen.
4. Recording the pattern - the danger is that once students take off the tabards and return to their seats then the pattern is lost. One way to record the pattern is to get students to step out of their tabards and leave them placed on the floor so everyone can then copy the pattern as a diagram. Alternatively, a digital camera could be used to record the scene and put onto the school network for annotating.
1. The bravest start is to ask the students what they have learned from this activity! Try to steer them into two different areas
- the specifics of highwaymen and
- the broader issue of explanation and causes
2. Another aspect of change and continuity to consider is which factors looked at were special to this period (changes) and which could be found at other times (continuities). This offers the chance to look back at the pattern of crime in earlier periods, which is important for consolidating knowledge from earlier in the course. Comparisons can also be made with today.
Notes & Variations
1. This activity could also be done as a card-sort on desk tops with pairs of students creating the patterns with factor cards. This has the advantage of involving everyone – each pair could be put into role as potential highwaymen.
2. The activity can be transferred to other crimes such as smuggling or vagabondage which flared up at particular times and so need particular explanations
- How did tackling this topic through this physical activity affect students’ learning?
- was understanding of the patterns of explanation deeper?
- did they have better knowledge of the range of factors as a result?
- How else could this technique be used elsewhere in your teaching?