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This paper draws on records of the juvenile courts sessions held in Suffolk during the 1930s and early 1940s, and explores the rural experience of juvenile crime in this period. Discussions of juvenile crime in the broader twentieth century are often dominated by the urban experience in cities such as Manchester, London and Glasgow. This research seeks to begin to uncover how the rural experience fits into the common rhetoric in this period on crime and childhood. It also considers the variety of cases coming before the court, and discusses contemporary reactions to the rise in juvenile crime during the Second World War. In turn, this paper draws on contemporary discourse recorded in Historic Hansard to consider how politicians and policy makers perceived behaviour of working class children who arguably make up the vast majority of those passing through the doors of the juvenile courts. In parliamentary debate in 1945, one MP observed “living as I did under the conditions of every normal working class child of my time, I should have figured as a unit in the juvenile delinquency statistics” i Utilising the data from the Suffolk court records, this paper explores the idea that childhood mischief had become criminalised in the aftermath of the Children & Young Persons’ Act (1933). 

i ‘Juvenile Delinquency’ HC Deb 02 November 1945 vol 415 c. 831 

Dr. Jessamy Carlson is an archivist and historian whose research interests cover various aspects of social history in the twentieth century. She is currently making the final edits to her monograph Girls will be girls: approved schools for girls in England, 1933-1973 which will be published with Palgrave MacMillan in due course. She teaches at the Centre for Archive & Information Studies at the University of Dundee, and works as a records specialist at The National Archives in west London. 

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