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Investigations and Trials


In this seminar, we will examine how crimes were investigated and tried across early modern Europe. We will discuss detention, interrogation, witnesses, secret denunciations, the use of torture, and the various forms and stages of trials. We will divide into groups looking at the processes in England and Wales, France, the German states and Holland, the Italian states, Russia, and Spain.

Seminar Questions

To what extent did the forms of investigations and trials vary across early modern Europe?

Required Reading

NB Each group should read the relevant items below for the state(s) they are investigating. Please divide the reading between you. Each student should read three chapters or articles. Topics to discuss include detention, interrogation, witnesses, secret denunciations, the use of torture, and the various forms and stages of trials.

Baker, J. H., An Introduction to English Legal History, 5th ed. (Oxford, 2019), especially Chapters Two, Three, Five, and Eight.

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

Boes, Maria R., Crime and Punishment in Early Modern Germany: Courts and Adjudicatory Practices in Frankfurt am Main, 1562-1696 (Farnham, 2013), Chapters Two and Three.

Cohen, Paul, 'Torture and Translation in the Multilingual Courtrooms of Early Modern France', Renaissance Quarterly 69/3 (2016), 899-939.

Fosi, Irene, Papal Justice: Subjects and Courts in the Papal State, 1500-1750, trans. Thomas V. Cohen (Washington, DC, 2011)

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

Heijden, Manon van der, Women and Crime in Early Modern Holland, trans. David McKay (Leiden, 2016), Chapter Two.

Herzog, Tamar, A Short History of European Law: The Last Two and a Half Millennia (Cambridge, Mass., 2018), Parts Three and Four.

Ingram, Martin, Carnal Knowledge: Regulating Sex in England, 1470-1600 (Cambridge, 2017), Chapters Three, Six, and Eleven.

Kollmann, Nancy Shields, Crime and Punishment in Early Modern Russia (Cambridge, 2015), Chapters Five, Six, and Eight.

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]

MacMillan, Ken, ed., Stories of True Crime in Tudor and Stuart England (London, 2015), Introduction

Schlau, Stacey, Gendered Crime and Punishment: Women and/in the Hispanic Inquisitions (Leiden, 2013)

Silverman, Lisa, Tortured Subjects: Pain, Truth, and the Body in Early Modern France (Chicago, 2001)

Vallerani, Massimo, Medieval Public Justice, trans. Sarah Rubin Blanshei (Washington, DC, 2012)

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]

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

Howard, Sharon, Law and Disorder in Early Modern Wales: Crime and Authority in the Denbighshire Courts, c.1660-1730 (Cardiff, 2008), Chapter One.

Lemmings, David, ed., Crime, Courtrooms, and the Public Sphere in Britain, 1700-1850 (Farnham, 2012)

Pihlajam√§ki, Heikki, 'The Painful Question: The Fate of Judicial Torture in Early Modern Sweden', Law and History Review, 25/3 (2007), 557–592.

Snell, E. J., 'Shame and Malice in the Eighteenth-Century Criminal Court and Community', in David Lemmings and Allyson N. May, eds, Criminal Justice During the Long Eighteenth Century: Theatre, Representation and Emotion (Abingdon, 2018), pp. 62-82.

Electronic Resources

Michael Palin's Quest for Artemisia. BBC documentary. First broadcast 28 December 2015.