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Rogues of the racecourse : racing men and the press in interwar Britain

Shore, Heather (2014) Rogues of the racecourse : racing men and the press in interwar Britain. Media History, 20 (4). pp. 352-367. ISSN 1368-8804


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This article focuses on the reporting of racecourse crime, exploring the shifting cultural contexts in which the press constructed outbreaks of metropolitan gang-related crime. The first part of the article looks at the extended coverage of what became known as the ‘racecourse wars’, concentrating on three key themes which permeate the accounts of racecourse crime between 1920 and 1925: the organisation of crime, the use of firearms and the mobility of criminals. The coverage of these events, which can be traced across a number of different newspapers, was often described in ways that reflected concerns about the organisation and professionalisation of crime. After 1925, despite continuing outbreaks of violence and racecourse-related crime, the press coverage subsided. However, in 1936 the racing men once again became ‘folk devils’, and the final part of the article explores the re-emergence of press reportage by considering the responses to the Lewes Racecourse Affray in June 1936. In this latter period, the rising influence of the American gangster film (as well as coverage of events in American cities such as New York and Chicago) meant that a newer language of gangsterdom would become increasingly embedded in British cultural forms.

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