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Smuggling is the illegal transportation of objects, substances, information or people, such as out of a house or buildings, into a prison, or across an international border, in violation of applicable laws or other regulations. These include the participation in illegal trade, such as in the drug trade, illegal weapons trade, exotic wildlife trade, illegal immigration or illegal emigration, tax evasion, providing contraband to a prison inmate, or the theft of the items being smuggled.
Examples of non-financial motivations include bringing banned items past a security checkpoint (such as airline security) or the removal of classified documents from a government or corporate office.
Smuggling is a common theme in literature, from Bizet's opera Carmen to the James Bond spy books (and later films) Diamonds are Forever and Goldfinger.
The verb smuggle, from Low German smuggeln or Dutch smokkelen (="to transport (goods) illegally"), apparently a frequentative formation of a word meaning "to sneak", most likely entered the English language during the 1600s–1700s.
Smuggling has a long and controversial history, probably dating back to the first time at which duties were imposed in any form, or any attempt was made to prohibit a form of traffic.
Smuggling is often associated with efforts by authorities to prevent the importation of certain contraband items or non-taxed goods; however, there has also been smuggling based on illegally exporting goods.
Following the loss of Gascony to the French in 1453, imports of wine were also sometimes embargoed during wars to try and deprive the French of the revenues that could be earned from their main export.Most studies of historical smuggling have been based on official sources — such as court records, or the letters of Revenue Officers.According to Dr Evan Jones (University of Bristol), the trouble with these is that 'they only detail the activities of those dumb enough to get caught'.Jones' study focuses on smuggling in Bristol in the mid-16th century, arguing that the illicit export of goods like grain and leather represented a significant part of the city's business, with many members of the civic elite engaging in it.
"I do not find they have any foreign commerce, except it be what we call smuggling and roguing; which I may say, is the reigning commerce of all this part of the English coast, from the mouth of the Thames to the Land's End in Cornwall." The high rates of duty levied on tea and also wine and spirits, and other luxury goods coming in from mainland Europe at this time made the clandestine import of such goods and the evasion of the duty a highly profitable venture for impoverished fishermen and seafarers.In certain parts of the country such as the Romney Marsh, East Kent, Cornwall and East Cleveland, the smuggling industry was for many communities more economically significant than legal activities such as farming and fishing.The principal reason for the high duty was the need for the government to finance a number of extremely expensive wars with France and the United States.Before the era of drug smuggling and human trafficking, smuggling had acquired a kind of nostalgic romanticism, in the vein of Robert Louis Stevenson's Kidnapped: The thievery was boasted about and romanticized until it seemed a kind of heroism.