The 200-year-old Asbos (they make Blair's Britain seem a soft touch)

Teenage yobs on the rampage in the inner cities, vandalism, theft and underage drunkenness. Sound familiar? In fact, zero-tolerance policies such as the modern Asbo have been struggling to tackle juvenile delinquents for hundreds of years.

Such measures have been trumpeted by New Labour as radical new ways of tackling anti-social behaviour among the nation's youth. However, archive material made public today reveals that equivalent measures were being used in Britain more than 200 years ago.

Logbooks from the Philanthropic Society, set up in 1806 to reform boys involved in crime, also show that petty offending and yobbish behaviour were just as prevalent in the 1800s as today.

Tackling out-of-control children and teenagers has become one of the most pressing issues for Tony Blair. Nearly 2,000 anti-social behaviour orders have been issued by police to target children who have not committed a crime but are classed as trouble-makers.

Yet a similar strategy was used two centuries ago to deal with children, some as young as nine, whose parents were unable to control them. Although young offenders were sent straight to prison from the courts, under-age tearaways who had not committed crimes were ordered by police and magistrates into a special reform programme backed by ministers.

The approach was to tame what were seen as feral urchins through vocational education such as printing, tailoring and shoemaking, using prevention rather than punishment to keep them away from crime.

In another parallel with modern "respect" policies, reformers in the 1800s identified the need to compel "careless and unnatural parents to do their duty", echoing today's parenting orders where people are given lessons in how to control their children.

Rainer, as the Philanthropic Society is now known, said the similarities between now and then are "striking", despite the 200-year time gap. The charity also said that they demonstrate that prevention is a more successful approach to youth crime than punishment, which has been "failing us for centuries".

"There was a complete panic about perceived rising levels of youth crime and delinquency, and people were worried about the gangs of urchins on the streets," said Joyce Moseley, chief executive of Rainer, which has opened its archives to mark the 200th anniversary of the charity being recognised by an Act of Parliament.

"At least they had access to proper housing, support and education, elements that have only just started to fully appear in the respect agenda."

Themes that dominate the society's logbooks include petty theft, criminals within families, as well as absent parents, a similar risk factor leading to youth-offending today.

The archives give an insight into the behaviour of these young tearaways, the 18th-century equivalent of modern prolific troublemakers such as the teenager dubbed "Rat Boy" in the press.

They include nine-year-old James Brady, who is described as possessing an "ungovernable temper and behaves very ill to his mother". The behaviour of the children he hung around with was so bad that he was deemed to be in "utmost danger" of offending.

Another, a 13-year-old called William Pearce, is described as "distrustful" and the cause of "great affliction" to his distressed mother. One young boy, who is not named, is described as having been "nine times in jail and not as yet as tall as this table".

Hassling shopkeepers was also another deviant pastime, which was already a problem 200 years ago. One report from the Philanthropic Society archives highlights the case of a gingerbread baker who complained that a boy was trying to run an extortion racket by demanding money from him in return for not smashing his windows.

Under-age binge drinking was another huge issue in the 1800s. Records from courts in Liverpool show that, at one point, more than 97 boys and 18 girls under the age of 10 and more than 500 boys and nearly 100 girls between 10 and 14 were hauled before magistrates for drunken behaviour.

Life and Style
life
News
Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie reportedly married in secret on Saturday
peopleSpokesperson for couple confirms they tied the knot on Saturday after almost a decade together
Life and Style
Chen Mao recovers in BK Hospital, Seoul
health
News
Joan Rivers has reportedly been hospitalised after she stopped breathing during surgery
people81-year-old 'stopped breathing' during vocal chord surgery
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebooksAn evocation of the conflict through the eyes of those who lived through it
Arts and Entertainment
tv
News
i100
Arts and Entertainment
Diana from the Great British Bake Off 2014
tvProducers confirm contestant left because of illness
Arts and Entertainment
Lisa Kudrow, Courtney Cox and Jennifer Anniston reunite for a mini Friends sketch on Jimmy Kimmel Live
tv
Life and Style
fashion

Independent
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
santorini
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Client-Side web developer (JQuery, Javascript, UI, JMX, FIX)

Negotiable: Harrington Starr: Client-Side web developer (JQuery, Javascript, U...

Structured Finance

Highly Competitive Salary: Austen Lloyd: CITY - An excellent new instruction w...

SQL Server Developer

£500 per day: Harrington Starr: SQL Server Developer SQL, PHP, C#, Real Time,...

C#.NET Developer

£600 per day: Harrington Starr: C#.NET Developer C#, Win Forms, WPF, WCF, MVVM...

Day In a Page

Ukraine crisis: The phoney war is over as Russian troops and armour pour across the border

The phoney war is over

Russian troops and armour pour into Ukraine
Potatoes could be off the menu as crop pests threaten UK

Potatoes could be off the menu as crop pests threaten UK

The world’s entire food system is under attack - and Britain is most at risk, according to a new study
Gangnam smile: why the Chinese are flocking to South Korea to buy a new face

Gangnam smile: why the Chinese are flocking to South Korea to buy a new face

Seoul's plastic surgery industry is booming thanks to the popularity of the K-Pop look
From Mozart to Orson Welles: Creative geniuses who peaked too soon

Creative geniuses who peaked too soon

After the death of Sandy Wilson, 90, who wrote his only hit musical in his twenties, John Walsh wonders what it's like to peak too soon and go on to live a life more ordinary
Caught in the crossfire of a cyber Cold War

Caught in the crossfire of a cyber Cold War

Fears are mounting that Vladimir Putin has instructed hackers to target banks like JP Morgan
Salomé's feminine wiles have inspired writers, painters and musicians for 2,000 years

Salomé: A head for seduction

Salomé's feminine wiles have inspired writers, painters and musicians for 2,000 years. Now audiences can meet the Biblical femme fatale in two new stage and screen projects
From Bram Stoker to Stanley Kubrick, the British Library's latest exhibition celebrates all things Gothic

British Library celebrates all things Gothic

Forthcoming exhibition Terror and Wonder: The Gothic Imagination will be the UK's largest ever celebration of Gothic literature
The Hard Rock Café's owners are embroiled in a bitter legal dispute - but is the restaurant chain worth fighting for?

Is the Hard Rock Café worth fighting for?

The restaurant chain's owners are currently embroiled in a bitter legal dispute
Caribbean cuisine is becoming increasingly popular in the UK ... and there's more to it than jerk chicken at carnival

In search of Caribbean soul food

Caribbean cuisine is becoming increasingly popular in the UK ... and there's more to it than jerk chicken at carnival
11 best face powders

11 best face powders

Sweep away shiny skin with our pick of the best pressed and loose powder bases
England vs Norway: Roy Hodgson's hands tied by exploding top flight

Roy Hodgson's hands tied by exploding top flight

Lack of Englishmen at leading Premier League clubs leaves manager hamstrung
Angel Di Maria and Cristiano Ronaldo: A tale of two Manchester United No 7s

Di Maria and Ronaldo: A tale of two Manchester United No 7s

They both inherited the iconic shirt at Old Trafford, but the £59.7m new boy is joining a club in a very different state
Israel-Gaza conflict: No victory for Israel despite weeks of death and devastation

Robert Fisk: No victory for Israel despite weeks of devastation

Palestinians have won: they are still in Gaza, and Hamas is still there
Mary Beard writes character reference for Twitter troll who called her a 'slut'

Unlikely friends: Mary Beard and the troll who called her a ‘filthy old slut’

The Cambridge University classicist even wrote the student a character reference
America’s new apartheid: Prosperous white districts are choosing to break away from black cities and go it alone

America’s new apartheid

Prosperous white districts are choosing to break away from black cities and go it alone