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Crime and Punishment

For discussion:

1. Does the study of crime provide any sort of mirror of the larger changes taking place in English society in this period?

2. Did the criminal law and its procedures reflect ‘a moral consensus that knew no social distinctions’?

3. Do the records of prosecutions in the assize and quarter session courts tell us anything of value about the incidence of crime?

Introductory Surveys:

Sharpe, J.A. Crime in Early Modern England, 1550-1750 (2nd edn, London, 1999), pp.1-101.

Detailed Studies:

Beattie, J.M. The Pattern of Crime in England, 1660-1800’, Past & Present 62 (February 1974), 47-95.

Hay, Douglas. ‘Property, Authority and the Criminal Law’, in Douglas Hay, Peter Linebaugh, John G. Rule, E.P. Thompson & Cal Winslow, Albion’s Fatal Tree: Crime and Society in Eighteenth-Century England (London, 1975), pp.17-63.

Cockburn, J.S. ‘The Nature and Incidence of Crime in England, 1559-1625: A Preliminary Survey’, in J.S. Cockburn (ed.), Crime in England, 1550-1800 (London, 1977), pp.49-71.

Lenman, Bruce, & Parker, Geoffrey. ‘The State, the Community and the Criminal Law in Early Modern Europe’, in V.A.C. Gatrell, Bruce Lenman & Geoffrey Parker (eds.), Crime and the Law: The Social History of Crime in Western Europe Since 1500 (London, 1980), pp.11-48.

Wrightson, Keith. ‘Two Concepts of Order: Justices, Constables and Jurymen in Seventeenth-Century England’, In John Brewer & John Styles (eds), An Ungovernable People: The English and Their Law in the Seventeenth and Eighteenth Centuries (London, 1980), pp.21-46.

Sharpe, J.A. ‘Domestic Homicide in Early Modern England’, Historical Journal 24 (1981), 29-48.

Sharpe, J.A. Crime in Seventeenth-Century England: A County Study (Cambridge, 1983).

Sharpe, J.A. ‘Debate: The History of Violence in England, Some Observations’, Past & Present 108 (August 1985), 206-15.

Stone, Lawrence. ‘Debate: The History of Violence in England, A Rejoinder’, Past & Present 108 (August 1985), 216-24.

Sharpe, J.A. ‘“Last Dying Speeches”: Religion, Ideology and Public Execution in Seventeenth-Century England’, Past & Present 107 (May 1985), 144-67.

Herrup, C.B. ‘Law and Morality in Seventeenth-Century England’, Past & Present 106 (February 1985), 102-23.

Sharpe, J.A. ‘The People and the Law’, in Barry Reay (ed.), Popular Culture in Seventeenth-Century England (London, 1985), pp.244-70.

Lawson, P.G. ‘Property Crime and Hard Times in England, 1559-1624’, Law & History Review 4 (1986), 95-127.

Jenkins, Philip. ‘From Gallows to Prison? The Execution Rate in Early Modern England’, Criminal Justice History 7 (1986), 51-71.

Beattie, J.M. Crime and the Courts in England, 1660-1800 (Oxford, 1986).

Herrup, C.B. The Common Peace: Participation and the Criminal Law in Seventeenth-Century England (Cambridge, 1987).

Lawson, P.G. ‘Lawless Juries? The Composition and Behaviour of Hertfordshire Juries, 1573-1624’, in J.S. Cockburn & T.A. Green (eds.), Twelve Good Men and True: The English Criminal Trial Jury, 1200-1800 (Princeton, 1988), pp.117-57.

Cockburn, J.S. ‘Patterns of Violence in English Society: Homicide in Kent 1560-1985’, Past & Present 130 (February 1991), 70-106.

Mercer, Sarah. ‘Crime in Late-Seventeenth-Century Yorkshire: An Exception to a National Pattern’, Northern History 27 (1991), 106-119.

MacDonald, Michael, & Murphy, T.R. Sleepless Souls: Suicide in Early Modern England (Oxford, 1990).

Kermode, J., & Walker, G. (eds.). Women, Crime and the Courts in Early Modern England (London, 1994).

Bennett, J.M. ‘Punishment, Discipline and Power: The Social Meanings of Violence in Early Modern England’, Journal of British Studies 34 (1995), 1-34.

Gaskill, Malcolm. ‘The Displacement of Providence: Policing and Prosecution in Seventeenth- and Eighteenth-Century England’, Continuity & Change 11:3 (1996), 341-74.

Gaskill, Malcolm. ‘Reporting Murder: Fiction in the Archives in Early Modern England’, Social History 23:1 (January 1998), 1-30.

Lawson, P.G. ‘Patriarchy, Crime and the Courts: The Criminality of Women in Late Tudor and Early Stuart England’, in Greg T. Smith, Allyson N. May & Simon Deveraux (eds), Criminal Justice in the Old World and the New: Essays in Honour of J.M. Beattie (Toronto, 1998), pp.16-57.

Gaskill, Malcolm. Crime and Mentalities in Early Modern England (Cambridge, 2000).

Hindle, Steve. The State and Social Change in Early Modern England, c.1550-1640 (London, 2000), pp.116-45.

Capp, Bernard. ‘Arson, Threats of Arson and Incivility in Early Modern England’, in Peter Burke, Brian Harrison and Paul Slack (eds), Civil Histories: Essays in Honour of Sir Keith Thomas (Oxford, 2000), pp.197-213.

Beattie, J.M. Policing and Punishment in London, 1660-1750: Urban Crime and the Limits of Terror (Oxford, 2001).

Hipkin, S., ‘”Why Should One Lack Money When Another Hath Plenty?”: The Tales of Two Criminals In Late-Elizabethan Kent’, Southern History 23 (2002), 45-58.Hipkin,

Kesselring, K.J. Mercy and Authority in the Tudor State (Cambridge, 2003).

Walker, Garthine. Crime, Gender and the Social Order in Early Modern England (Cambridge, 2003).

Walker, Garthine. 'Keeping it in the Family: Crime and the Early Modrn Household', in Helen Berry & Elizabeth Foyster (eds), The family in Early Modern England (Cambridge, 2007), pp.67-95.

Tosney, Nicholas. 'Women and "False Coining" in Early Modern London', London Journal 32:2 (2007), 103-23.


1. On popular participation: Herrup (1985), Sharpe (1985)

2. On power and authority: Lawson (1988), Kesselring (2003)