Crime and the Law 
Crime and the Law
by Yale / Keith Wrightson
Video Lecture 15 of 25
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Date Added: June 15, 2011

Lecture Description

In this lecture Professor Wrightson examines the problem of order in early modern society, focusing on crimes of violence and upon property crime. In examining violence, he notes the existence of special cases geographically (the borderlands) and socially (aristocratic violence) before looking at the lower (and gradually declining) levels of homicide in general. He then considers property crime, distinguishing the various categories of theft and the manner in which cases were brought to, and handled in, the courts. The late sixteenth and early seventeenth centuries witnessed a peak in prosecution, but while the law could be harsh and bloody in meting out punishment, it was also characterized by discretionary extension of mercy. Interpretations of the use of such discretion are compared and assessed -- as are the limits that existed on its use in a society that believed in the deterrent effect of "exemplary punishment."

Reading assignment:
Wrightson, English Society, pp. 149-73

Course Index

Course Description

This course is intended to provide an up-to-date introduction to the development of English society between the late fifteenth and the early eighteenth centuries. Particular issues addressed in the lectures will include: the changing social structure; households; local communities; gender roles; economic development; urbanization; religious change from the Reformation to the Act of Toleration; the Tudor and Stuart monarchies; rebellion, popular protest and civil war; witchcraft; education, literacy and print culture; crime and the law; poverty and social welfare; the changing structures and dynamics of political participation and the emergence of parliamentary government.

Course Structure:
This Yale College course, taught on campus twice per week for 50 minutes, was recorded for Open Yale Courses in Fall 2009.

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