book cover of Contraband


The story of smugglers, spivs and honest thieves
A non fiction book by

The compelling story of prohibited trade from smuggling's golden age to Second World War black marketeering which tells a wealth of anecdotes of human greed, daring and ingenuity; all revealed through centuries of rich social history

This colorful history ranges from the '-owlers' smuggling wool across Romney Marsh when the customs system began in 1275 to today's internet piracy and drug mules. Its focus is on Britain's illicit trade between 1700 and 1955, featuring contraband as diverse as tea and spirits, pornography, diamonds, vulture's teeth, '-nylons' and human beings. A vivid narrative reveals how black traders obtained, concealed and sold their illicit goods, as well as exploring linked crimes such as fraud, piracy and murder. Contraband also portrays the state's struggle to protect its revenue with measures like customs cutters and an army of officials including Chaucer and Robert Burns. At the heart of the book are two fascinating opposing trends - how the increasingly global business became professional, playing for the highest stakes, and the power of events like war, taxation and prohibition to tempt the most law-abiding into '-amateur' black trade. Even the rich and famous could not resist - Samuel Pepys records his contraband spice deal with two '-wretched dirty seamen', and London's Ritz was prosecuted during World War Two for contravening restaurant restrictions.

Used availability for Peter Guttridge's Contraband

Hardback Editions

February 2010 : UK Hardback

Title: Contraband: The storyof smugglers, spivs and honest thieves
Author(s): Peter Guttridge
ISBN: 1-905615-54-X / 978-1-905615-54-4 (UK edition)
Publisher: The National Archives
Availability: Amazon   Amazon UK   Amazon CA   Amazon AU