Cornish Wrecking, 1700-1860: Reality and Popular Myth

Research output: Book/ReportBook


Although the popular myth of Cornish wrecking is well-known within British culture, this book is the first comprehensive, systematic inquiry to separate out the layers of myth from the actual practices. Weaving in legal, social and cultural history, it traces the development of wreck law--the right to salvage goods washed on shore--and explores the responses of a coastal populace who found their customary practices increasingly outside the law, especially as local individual rights were being curtailed and the role of centralised authority asserted. By investigating the relationship between legal salvage and illegal wrecking, it shows how the populace developed their own moral entitlement and mechanisms which allowed them to practise wrecking, salvaging, and lifesaving activities simultaneously.

This groundbreaking study also considers the myths surrounding wrecking, showing how these developed over time, and how moral attitudes towards wrecking changed. Overall, the picture of evil wreckers deliberately luring ships onto the rocks is dispelled, to be replaced by a detailed picture of a coastal populace--poor and gentry alike--who were involved in a multi-faceted, sophisticated coastal practice and who had their own complex popular beliefs about the harvest and salvage of goods washing ashore from shipwreck.
Original languageEnglish
Place of PublicationWoodbridge
PublisherBoydell and Brewer Ltd
Number of pages278
ISBN (Print)9781843835554
Publication statusPublished - 2010


  • Coastal history
  • Social history
  • British history
  • Legal History


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