The Gangs of Birmingham
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They were young, violent and fearless. They fought with knives, belt buckles and cut-throat razors, and were noted for their strange, outlandish fashions and for their long fringes and peaked caps. They would become immortalised as the Peaky Blinders. In the late 19th century the industrial city of Birmingham, renowned as the 'workshop of the world', erupted in a series of gang wars. Mobs of youths armed with makeshift weapons fought pitched battles for territorial supremacy. Known at fist as 'Sloggers', they emerged from the downtrodden masses, lured to the factories of the Midlands to make guns, nails and jewellery and pressed into overcrowded slums. As the city population grew six-fold, the gangs arose, immersed in a tradition of masculine pursuits such as bare-knuckle prize-fighting and political and sectarian violence. They held the streets in a grip of fear.
Philip Gooderson's landmark study is the first history of this neglected underworld. It identifies the appearance of what became the Peakies in around 1870, and charts their course through the Bordesley Riot of 1874 and the antics of infamous brawlers such as the Simpson brothers of Aston, the Harpers of Sparkbrook, and the police killer 'Cloggy' Williams, before their eventual demise at the turn of the century. It brings to life a vivid chapter in the bloody history of Britain's gangland.