Smugglers: brutal thugs or jolly free traders?

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For much of the 18th and early 19th century, Britain’s coasts were the setting for a vast smuggling industry. In some areas huge gangs of men regularly unloaded contraband in full view of the outnumbered and outgunned customs authorities. Whole communities shared in the risks and profits of these illegal free trade enterprises.

The traditional story-book image of smugglers is of generous, jolly, harmless chums who just enjoyed a drop of untaxed brandy and used peaceful persuasion to get the co-operation they needed. But just how accurate is this cosy stereotype? Were real-life smugglers actually more like today’s Mafia or Triads?

In an illustrated talk at the National Maritime Museum Cornwall at 6.30pm on January 28th, Richard Platt will compare the grim facts with the romantic legend.

Richard is the author of two books on this topic Smuggling in the British Isles and The Ordnance Survey Guide to Smugglers’ Britain.

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