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Contemporary Representations and Perceptions I


Final Year modules place greater emphasis on the use of primary sources than modules in the First and Second Years. This is the first of two seminars in which we examine the primary sources for early modern crime and punishment. This week we will look at court records, pardon tales, pamphlets, press reports, chronicles, and journals.

Seminar Questions

How are early modern crimes and punishments represented in court records, pardon tales, press reports, chronicles, and journals?

What do court records, parson tales, press reports, chronicles, and journals reveal about contemporary perceptions of early modern crime and punishment?

What are the advantages and disadvantages of these sources for the historian of crime and punishment in early modern Europe?

Required Reading

Each student should read:

EITHER Thomas V. Cohen and Elizabeth S. Cohen, eds and trans., Words and Deeds in Renaissance Rome: Trials Before the Papal Magistrates (Toronto, 1993), Introduction and two of the cases.

OR Ken MacMillan, Stories of True Crime in Tudor and Stuart England (London, 2015), Introduction and three of the cases.

OR Franz Schmidt, A Hangman's Diary: The Journal of Master Franz Schmidt, Public Executioner of Nuremberg, 1573-1617, ed. Albrecht Keller, trans. C. Calvert and A.W. Gruner (New York, 2015), Introduction and The Diary.

AND two of the following items. NB You should look at more than one country.

Clark, Sandra, Women and Crime in the Street Literature of Early Modern England (Houndmills, 2003). [Read one chapter].

Cockburn, J. S., 'Early Modern Assize Records as Historical Evidence', Journal of the Society of Archivists 5/4 (1975), 215-231.

Dean, Trevor, Crime and Justice in Late Medieval Italy (Cambridge, 2007), Chapter One 'Trial Records' or Chapter Two 'Chronicles'.

French, Henry, 'Legal and Judicial Sources' in Laura Sangha and Jonathan Willis, eds, Understanding Early Modern Primary Sources (Abingdon, 2016), pp. 35-57.

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

Gladfelder, Hal, Criminality and Narrative in Eighteenth-century England (Baltimore, 2001). [Read one chapter. Chapters Three, Four, and Five are particularly useful].

Gladfelder, Hal, 'Theatre of Blood: On the Criminal Trial as Tale of Terror', in David Lemmings and Allyson N. May, eds, Criminal Justice During the Long Eighteenth Century: Theatre, Representation and Emotion (Abingdon, 2018), pp. 153-76.

Kollmann, Nancy Shields, Crime and Punishment in Early Modern Russia (Cambridge, 2015), Introduction.

Lemmings, David, 'Negotiating Justice in the New Public Sphere: Crime, the Courts and the Press in Early Eighteenth-century Britain' in David Lemmings, ed., Crime, Courtrooms, and the Public Sphere in Britain, 1700-1850 (Farnham, 2012), pp. 119-146.

Martin, Randall, Women, Murder, and Equity in Early Modern England (Abingdon, 2008). [Read one chapter].

Snell, Esther, 'Trials in Print: Narratives of Rape Trials in the Proceedings of the Old Bailey' in David Lemmings, ed., Crime, Courtrooms, and the Public Sphere in Britain, 1700-1850 (Farnham, 2012), pp. 23-42.

Tarlow, Sarah, and Emma Battell Lowman, Harnessing the Power of the Criminal Corpse (New York, 2018), Chapter Eight.

Wiltenburg, Joy, Crime and Culture in Early Modern Germany (Charlottesville, VA, 2012) [The whole book discusses this topic but you might begin with the Introduction for an overview]

Further Reading

Dalton, Michael, The Countrey Justice (London, 1618) [This manual was used by English justices of the peace. It offers advice on a wide range of issues including levying customs, highways, prisons, riots, soldiers, murder, felonies, rogues, vagabonds, and high treason]

Davis, Natalie Zemon, Fiction in the Archives: Pardon Tales and their Tellers in Sixteenth-century France (Oxford, 1987)

Gray, Drew D., Crime, Policing and Punishment in England, 1660-1914 (London, 2016), Chapter Two.

Harrington, Joel F., The Executioner's Journal: Meister Frantz Schmidt of the Imperial City of Nuremberg (Charlottesville, VA, 2016)

Kinney, Arthur F., ed. Rogues, Vagabonds, and Sturdy Beggars: A New Gallery of Tudor and Early Stuart Rogue Literature Exposing the Lives, Times, and Cozening Tricks of the Elizabethan Underworld (1973; rept. Amherst, 1990)

Langbein, John H., Prosecuting Crime in the Renaissance : England, Germany, France (Cambridge, MA, 1974) [NB This includes the texts of key English, French, and Imperial statutes, and commentaries on these]

Electronic Resources

Courts of Law Records Held in Other Archives [For UK records not in the National Archives]

Crime and Punishment Collections Network 

Criminal Trials in the Assize Courts 1559-1971

Early English Books Online

Eighteenth Century Collections Online

Eighteenth Century Journals: a portal to newspapers and periodicals, c1685-1815.

English Crime and Execution Broadsides

London Lives 1690 to 1800: Crime, Poverty and Social Policy in the Metropolis [A fully searchable edition of 240,000 manuscripts from eight archives and fifteen datasets, giving access to 3.35 million names.]

The Complete Newgate Calendar

The Old Bailey Online [A fully searchable edition of the largest body of texts detailing the lives of non-elite people ever published, containing 197,745 criminal trials held at London's central criminal court. For BBC podcasts which use these records click here]

English Petitions, British History Online

The Power of Petitioning in Seventeenth-Century England