History KS2: The Thief Taker General

The Thief Taker General, Jonathan Wild, is on trial for stealing and receiving stolen goods in 1725.

Witness testimony reveals that he organised crimes, and then benefited from the return of the goods stolen. Even imprisoned in Newgate Prison, he manages to control crime.

Wild is found guilty and sentenced to hang.

The case is played out in the court room with dramatic flashbacks to illustrate the crime. The court reporter sets the scene and offers insight and context.

This film is from the series Tales from the Old Bailey.

Teacher Notes

This case is a complex one and, as such, can be used to challenge and extend pupil understanding.

  • It may help to view the film in short excerpts, leading whole-class discussions to ensure that the charges are understood and the progress of the trial followed carefully. Alternatively it could be viewed in one session, with pupils then asked to generate questions about what they have seen. Some questions may be answered by other pupils during class discussion and then the video could be reviewed to answer any outstanding questions.

  • Pupils could also complete a story board illustrating the main points of the case. Discussion around the case could be based on a number of points, such as the reasons for Wild's initial success in avoiding detection, the reason for the creation of this kind of role in the first place, and contrast that with the role of the police today.

  • It could form part of a wider comparison of the balance over time between the state directly employing people to fight crime, such as the police, and the use of private individuals to do so.

  • Pupils could also consider the relative severity of the sentence compared with the sentence the offence might receive today.

  • Pupils could be asked to write their own version of the trial which could be acted out and compared with the clip.

Curriculum Notes

These clips are relevant for teaching history at Key Stage 2 and Second level, particularly when studying the Georgians.

More Tales from the Old Bailey

The Blackguard Boys
The Grave Robber
The Murderess
The Suffragettes