Legal Systems in Early Modern England

  • Created by: mld_00
  • Created on: 15-05-19 14:14
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  • Legal Procedures in the Early Modern Witch Hunts
    • Origins
      • Some fears can be attributed from the trial of Anne Boleyn, and so fears from these events pushed people into the belief that witchcraft was becoming a real problem
    • 1542 Witchcraft Act
      • James Sharpe argues that this is one of the earliest forms of witchcraft legislation in England and was one of the harshest.
        • The statute, argued that the conjuring of spirits, magical practices such as the finding lost and stolen goods, pulling down of crosses were described as the 'great offence of God's law.'
      • It is also important to note that despite the harshness of this act, there was no mention of a diabolical pact with the Devil, sabbaths and night flying. It is also UNCLEAR how well this was enforced in the legal procedures.
    • 1547
      • In 1547, the 1542 Witchcraft Act was repealed, which left England without any legal statutes to enforce witchcraft as a crime.
      • After the death of Mary I and the accession of Elizabeth and her Protestant rule saw the return of religious zealousness from those who were persecuted under Mary.
    • 1563 Witchcraft Act
      • The legal background of this particular Tudor legislation is unclear, but is clear to argue that this piece of legislation did go through the Commons in order to secure protection against witches
      • The 1563 Witchcraft Act did not associate witchcraft as a pact between humans and the Devil but more to do with maleficarum.
    • 1604 Witchcraft Act
      • The 1604 Witchcraft, is not explicitly done after the accession of James I, but it is possible as well as the idea that James was particularly interested in witchcraft.
      • This piece of legislation retained the death penalty for causing death by witchcraft. It was also a capital offence to now summon any 'wicked spirit for any intent or purpose'
      • The Witchcraft Act of 1604 showed a direct shift away from previous pieces of legislation, it moved away from witchcraft being solely maleficium.


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