Peaky Blinders (2/5)

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Known most recently for the BBC television drama portraying a heavily fictionalised version of the gang, the Peaky Blinders were a very real and very notorious gang operating in Birmingham during the early 1900s. 

The distinctive name has several suggested origins, none of which have been precisely confirmed. One particularly barbaric origin story states that the name came from the gang’s practice of sewing razor blades into their hats to be used as concealed weaponry. Emerging from the poor economic conditions of Birmingham as a gang of youths that turned to thievery in order to survive the poverty and hardship of their city, it is unclear who exactly they were founded by. The name entered the press through an incident in which an article was published, noting that the men responsible for a serious assault committed upon a young man named George Eastwood introduced themselves as the ‘Peaky Blinders’, which was then confirmed by several young men writing to local newspapers and declaring themselves a gang. While they started in small-time robberies and muggings of passer-by’s, the gang and its activities were to grow exponentially, and they wielded powerful influence over Central England for the better part of a decade. They occupied favourable land throughout Birmingham and managed an extensive criminal enterprise, usually engaging in typical gang activities of the time such as racketeering, fraud. 

The gang’s decline came about abruptly, when their expansion into the extremely profitable racing rackets drew the attention and more importantly the ire of a much larger, more powerful gang: the Birmingham Boys. Sandwiched between an aggressive police force and the aforementioned gang, the Blinders retreated into the safety of the countryside, more or less peacefully retiring from their position in the underworld of Birmingham.

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