Mugshots of child criminals of Edwardian Britain, 1900-1910

These mugshots from Edwardian Britain depict minors arrested for petty crimes and are part of the Tyne Wear Archives' extensive photographic collection.

Subjects ranged in age starting from 12 years old to 21 years which was the legal age of adulthood. These minors were arrested in the British city of North Shields.

By the time Edward VII took the throne in 1901, Victoria had ruled for so long (64 years) that most people could not remember the previous monarch. His name became synonymous with power, being a symbol of an empire "over which the sun never sets."

But the Edwardian era was not exactly the "long sunny afternoon" that some have portrayed. Edward's rule began in a period of national uncertainty, and the Edwardians faced a period of unrest that had its roots in the past. A look at the book's statistics reveals that although Britain was still the richest country in Europe, others were catching up.

The social issues that emerged during Victoria's reign began to flourish during the Edwardian era. Chief among these was the high poverty rate among the working classes; 77 percent of the population was congested in cities, and in many cases wages had actually fallen, although the cost of living continued to rise.

Petty crimes, especially among children, increased sharply in the early twentieth century. The reasons are not easy to seek, but the short answer should be the increase in urban poverty as a result of increased industrial activity.

As people flocked to the cities in search of work, poverty grew and slums grew. Children faced violence at home and poverty meant that many dropped out of school and took to the streets to commit petty thefts and pickpockets.

The British legal system introduced separate treatment for young offenders since the 1850s, when correctional and industrial schools were first introduced.

In addition to the creation of new punitive measures to deal with youth, laws were passed to remove children from some sectors of industry and restrict their activities in others, while compulsory elementary education was introduced in 1870.

In 1889, the 'Children's Charter' introduced legal protection for children from various forms of cruelty and enabled the state to interfere in family life. The 1890s and 1900s snowballed into efforts by campaigners to push for more legal protection and coverage for children and youth.

These changes were part of a gradual development in the concept of childhood, and there was a growing interest in how the experiences of youth shaped adults.

These new laws were, among other things, part of an effort to improve the condition of youth by providing them with new opportunities and protections; Increasing awareness of the developmental importance of childhood; and an attempt to impose a middle class concept of childhood on the working classes.

Changes in the perception of childhood gave rise to new ideas about how delinquent and vulnerable youth should be controlled by the state.

From the 1880s onwards, campaigners began to call for the introduction of a special court to specifically handle cases involving children and youth.

These efforts eventually bore fruit in the Children's Act of 1908, one of several reforms of the liberal governments of 1906–14, which included school meals, school medical oversight and the provision of pensions for orphans.

The aim of the reformer was to provide personalized treatment for troubled children and to neutralize the effects of poor adult influence. He believed dysfunctional families were the major cause of juvenile delinquency.

More specifically, slum children abused and broke the law because their parents did not take care of them in 'appropriate' ways.

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