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Was smuggling viewed as a serious crime in the 18th Century?

BarrelsHow often do you put real archive material in front of your students? Rarely? Well, why not make up for it by using this genuinely accessible, original official letter from the mid-18th Century.

Can your students work out what crime Captain Gwyn was accused of by Portsmouth customs officials in 1748?

Your students will read the letter to find out exactly how much smuggled contraband Gwyn was hiding in his house. They will then predict what happened next?

What do they think happened when the authorities tried to take back the booty?

They will read the second part of the original letter to discover that a mob of 30 people stood up to the customs officials. They engaged in an almost farcical scene of continuously grabbing the booze back from the authorities who tried to confiscate the goods, until the officials were forced to leave empty handed.

What does all of this tell us about people’s attitudes to smuggling and smuggled goods in the mid 18th century? Your students will finish by answering a classic question.

This lesson was originally adapted from a source found on the National Archives, and was then made part of OCR Crime and Punishment Through Time book I wrote in 2010.

Download lesson

  • Lesson presentation: PowerPoint
  • Lesson write-up: PDF
  • R1a: Copy of first part of the original letter: PowerPoint
  • R1b: Transcript of first part of the letter: PDF
  • R2a: Copy of second part of the original letter: PowerPoint
  • R2b: Transcript of second part of the letter: PDF

Price: £12.99

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