Fighting Crime in Maritime London

Smuggling (the crime of importing or exporting goods without paying the required Customs duties) and corruption had been a problem since the Middle Ages. The word ‘smuggle’ originated primarily from the Scandinavian languages – the Danish smugle which literally means ‘smuggle’ and the Swedish smuga means ‘a lurking hole’ (потаенное место, убежище) – the Anglo-Saxon smugan, ‘to creep’, is probably cognate (родственный, близкий) with the Icelandic prefix smug which stems from smjuga, and means ‘to creep’ or ‘to creep through a hole’.

Smuggling usually took place through the ports: vessels and individuals arriving at ports often attempted to conceal dutiable goods, sometimes by disguising (маскируя) them as other items.

To detect concealed goods, teams of officers searched vessels and people using the port. Ships bound for London could be searched. The people and their luggage had to be checked at Customs posts at the place of arrival.

When Customs duties were very high, some smugglers avoided the ports altogether, and tried to land their goods in places out of sight of the authorities. These smugglers brought in light, high-value goods such as tea, tobacco and silks.

Smuggling reached its peak during the 18th century, when duties were very high, and when many imports were banned altogether during the frequent wars with France.

The smugglers have often been romanticized in literature but in reality, it was a brutal business on both sides. Many smugglers were hanged, and most were prepared to use force against the revenue men – as the Customs officials were known – to avoid capture (избежать ареста). While the authorities used informants to break the gangs, smugglers used the threat of violence – and even murder (убийство) – to ensure silence from the local community.

Contraband goods were often destroyed in public, in order to demonstrate that smuggling would not be tolerated.

The presence of ruthless villains (жестокие негодяи) in the gangs led, in turn, to violent clashes (стычки, столкновения) between smugglers and revenue men and turned the cliffs and coasts of England into a blood-soaked battleground comparable with the Wild West of pre-industrial America.

The smuggling traders came very often in gangs of sixty to one hundred men to the shore in disguise armed with swords, pistols, blunderbusses (мушкетоны), carbines (карабины), and not only carry off the goods they land in defiance of (вопреки) officers, but beat, knock down and abuse whoever they meet in their way.

Women were useful to the smugglers as signallers and carriers of messages from members of the gang to each other, but they actually brought goods in from the shore for them.

The skirt was a particularly useful fashion, for the women wound silk (шелк) and lace (шнурок, тесьма) round their bodies and reached home as a rule quite peacefully with their contraband.

There have been cases, however, when women have, on inspection, been found to have had their petticoats (нижние юбки) puffed out by bladders (надувая их [юбки] пузырями) filled with spirits (спиртные напитки).

Although there were more potential smugglers around, there were also more soldiers, sailors and preventive men to combat them. A whole series of measures were taken to increase the numbers of those employed in the prevention of smuggling and to improve co-operation between them.

Inspecting officers, riding officers were appointed to carry out combined operations. Naval vessels and troops of soldiers were also drafted in to aid the struggle.

Exercise 7.Complete these phrases from the text using prepositions, if necessary.

to originate _____ the language;

to arrive _____ ports;

to be banned ______ the frequent wars;

to be destroyed _____ public;

to use force _____ the revenue men;

to be a brutal business _____ both sides;

to land goods ____ places ____ ____ sight of the authorities;

to be checked _____ Customs posts;

to come ____ gangs _____ sixty;

to improve co-operation _____ them;

to knock _____ people on the way;

to land _____ defiance _____ officers;

to be useful _____ the smugglers;

to be filled ____ spirits;

to reach _____ home _____ the contraband.

Exercise 8.Make up your own sentences with:

attempts to conceal; to detect concealed good; to search ships; armed with swords; high-value goods; contraband goods; women-signallers; series of measures; members of the gangs; preventive men; clashes between smugglers; blood-soaked battlegrounds.

Exercise 9.Answer the following questions:

1. Why did the smugglers disguise goods as other items?

2. When did the smugglers avoid the ports?

3. When did smuggling reach its peak?

4. How were the smugglers punished?

5. Why did women become smugglers?

6. Who caught them?

7. How were the Customs officials called at that time?

Exercise 10.Translate Text 2 into Russian.


Text 2

Introduction to Smuggling

There are two schools of thought on the rights and wrongs of smuggling, and two strikingly different definitions of a smuggler. Samuel Johnson described him as a wretch who, in defiance of justice and the laws, imports or exports goods either contraband or without payment of the Customs.

Whereas Adam Smith, the eighteenth century economist and advocate of free trade, was more generous: “The smuggler”, he wrote, “is a person who, though no doubt blamable for violating the laws of his country, is frequently incapable of violating those of natural justice, and would have been in every respect an excellent citizen had not the laws of his country made that a crime which nature never meant to be so.”

(From the book “Dorset Smugglers” by Roger Guttridge)

Exercise 11.Render the text below.


Text 3

Smugglers in Cornwall

It is difficult to separate the myth from the reality with smugglers. Were they free traders, organized crime, villains or local heroes?

Cornwall was suitable for smuggling because it had a long rocky, uninhabited coast, with few revenue men to patrol it. The goods smuggled included tea, brandy, gin, rum and tobacco. Following numerous increases in tea tax, tea could be bought in Europe for 1/6th of the price in Britain, while French brandy was only 1/5th of the price.

Initially, smuggling took place fairly openly with cargoes landed directly on the shore.

Smuggling boomed until the end of the 18th century. However from around 1800 the revenue men became more organized and proactive. Smuggled goods had to be dropped off in remote coves, and picked up again when the coast was clear. Tunnels and passages were dug out of the rocks to expedite movement.

The risks involved in smuggling were high.

Exercise 12.Read Text 4 and say what bizarre goods (странные, необычные товары) are the objects of smuggling these days. Compare these cases with the ones above.

Text 4*

Drug Smuggling Submarines

1. It seems drug smugglers are always coming up with new and innovative ways to get their drugs onto U.S streets. Well, here’s the latest, it’s a drug smuggling submarine.

2. In 2006 and 2007 a new method of smuggling emerged, surface skimming, semi-submersible, home-made submarines were captured from Thailand to Spain and further to Colombia. In 2008 the number detected has already reached the 2007 count. This craft often had sophisticated electronics for evading capture.

3. Security at an airport in Stockholm watched a woman continually adjusting her top until they decided to investigate. As it happens, she had filled her bra with 65 snakes and also managed to find room for 7 lizards under her shirt as well. Officials claim they noticed “something unusual” about her chest.

4. Surprisingly, next to drugs, animal smuggling is one of the biggest draws for people trying to pull one over on airport security. Some people are just hardcore nature lovers or hard up for cash.

A 23-year-old Australian was stopped coming into the country from Dubai when it was found he had a package of eggs on him, which was a little odd and certainly against the rules. A further search revealed a money belt around his waist full of seeds. Likely at this point someone raised an eyebrow and decided to investigate further. What they found was that, under his pants, he was wearing tights with a pigeon jammed in each leg.

5. Some smugglers are really dedicated to what they do and go that extra mile to commit their crimes.

A Chilean man on his way to Barcelona aroused some suspicion from security personnel who took a keen interest in the cast on his broken leg. As it turned out, some silly doctor had forgotten to use plaster and actually made the cast out of cocaine instead. The man actually did have a broken leg, one that officials are fairly certain he broke on purpose, just to have the cocaine cast put on. The man has true love for the game.

Exercise 13.Give the English equivalents to the following:

новый способ контрабанды; самодельные подводные лодки; плавное движение (скольжение); погруженный в воду наполовину; судно; сложное электронное оборудование; поправлять топ; контрабанда животных; приманка, соблазн; ‘протащить’ через систему безопасности аэропорта; ‘любители’ природы; нуждаться, не иметь средств (наличных); брюки; обыск (досмотр); пояс с деньгами (монетами) вокруг талии; поднять бровь от изумления; продолжить обыск (расследование); совершить преступление; возбудить подозрение; креативный / творческий; сломанная нога в гипсе; использовать кокаин вместо гипса.


Talking Points

Exercise 14.Present your views on the following:

1. The history of smuggling in England goes hand in hand with the history of the Customs institution.

2. Smuggling and corruption had been a problem since the Middle Ages.

3. Smuggling reached its peak during the 18th century.

4. Cornwall was suitable for smuggling because it had a long rocky, uninhabited coast, with few revenue men to patrol it.

5. A new method of smuggling emerged: home-made submarines were captured from Thailand to Spain and further to Colombia.

6. Animal smuggling is one of the biggest draws for people trying to pull one over on airport security.


Focus on Grammar

Exercise 15. Translate the sentences with Modal verbs into Russian.

1. Customs must apply a wide variety of controls in the fast moving goods environment of today.

2. Customs control must be quick, effective and based on modern risk management techniques.

3. The full use of modern technology should be applied at the Customs.

4. Special rules had to be introduced in order to organize controls on baggage coming from or going to other countries.

5. All the notes and coins can be used in all EU countries that have adopted the euro.

6. Smuggled goods had to be dropped off in remote coves.

7. Ships bound for London could be searched.

Exercise 16.Translate the sentences with the Passives into Russian.

1. To collect duties, a permanent Customs staff was established and almost immediately the first smugglers appeared.

2. As the years passed, the economic needs of monarchs increased and duties were accordingly raised or extended to other commodities.

3. Most of the smuggling trade in the world is now carried on by people in such great numbers, armed and disguised, that the officers can’t often oppose them.

4. Tea cases were fitted between the vessel’s timbers and were made to resemble the floors of the ship.

5. Tea could be hidden under the cape or petticoat trouser worn by the fishermen and pilots of the vessels.

6. Whole series of measures were taken to increase the numbers of those employed in the prevention of smuggling.

7. Naval vessels and troops of soldiers were also drafted in to aid the struggle.

8. Inspecting officers and riding officers were appointed and combined operations were arranged to fight against smuggling.

Exercise 17. Complete the sentences using must or can’t and one of the verbs from the box.

belong come spend have like live want remember


1. Jane has an incredible number of compact discs. She _____ music a lot.

2. Peter doesn’t speak German, so he ___________________ from Germany.

3. This jacket ________ to Janet because it’s not her size.

4. That man ________ around here because he doesn’t know any of the street names.

5. Jack ________ a lot of clothes. He wears something different every day.

6. Sam’s grandmother is over eighty years old, so she ___________ the Second World War.

7. You’ve got ten cats already. You ________ to get another one.

8. Susan buys a new dress every day. She __________ a lot of money on clothes.

Exercise 18. Make these sentences negative.

1. They have to go now.

2. Mark must speak to the agent.

3. You have to drive slowly here.

4. Alice has to get up early.

5. The travellers must arrive at the airport earlier.

6. Mike has to phone his brother.

Exercise 19. Complete the sentences using the necessary Modal verbs.

1. Ted’s flight from Amsterdam took more than 11 hours. He __________ be exhausted after such a long flight. He ___________ prefer to stay in tonight and get some rest.

2. You ____________ submit the application if it has not been completely filled in. If the form is not accurate and complete, you will be rejected and you will _________ reapply at a later date.

3. I completely forgot we were supposed to pick Jenny up at the airport.

She __________ still be sitting there waiting for us.

4. Debbie said she had been really busy this week, but I think she _________ show up at the party if she doesn’t have to work overtime on Friday.

5. These instructions are difficult to follow. They ___________to explain things better.

6. She’s been revising ten hours a day for three weeks. She ________ be exhausted.

7. Nobody’s answering. They __________ be out.

8. He __________ be from the Great Britain. He doesn’t speak English.

Exercise 20. Translate into English.

1. Я думаю, он не сумеет оформить визу в недельный срок.

2. Вы не сможете пронести такое количество ручной клади в салон самолета.

3. Ему не разрешают пользоваться таким дорогим оборудованием.

4. Им удалось избежать объяснений с руководством.

5. Эти бумаги очень ценные. Вы не должны их потерять.

6. Нам не пришлось проходить таможенные формальности.

7. Грабителям удалось быстро проникнуть в офис.

8. Встреча бизнесменов должна быть назначена на завтра.

9. Контрабандистам не удастся обмануть опытного таможенного инспектора.

10. Поезд должен прибыть по расписанию.


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