Anglo Saxon Crime and Punishment [ 400AD to 1066]

Crime and Punishment in the Anglo Saxon period before the Normans took over in 1066

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Tithing - groups of ten men who were responsible for each others behaviour

Blood Feud - the legal right of a murder's victim's family to hunt down and kill the murderer in revenge

Hue and Cry - a nosiy group of villagers who chased suspected criminals

Weregild - a fine (blood prices) for different wounds

Oath Helper - a witness who is prepared to swear on the cross that a person is innocent

Trial by Ordeal - a way of finding out if a person is guilty or not

Folk Moots - an open air trial held in villages

Outlaw - a person being hunted for their crimes who is literally out of the law (they crossed he villages boundry into he forest)

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Shire Court - a court for more serious crimes that met a few times a year in the county

Royal Court - courts that dealt with serious crimes and met in the name of the king

Manor Court - a court for less serious crimes that met several times a year in the Lord's manor; the punishment given was usually a fine

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Practise Question

Briefly describe the ways in which the Anglo - Saxons dealt with law and order. [5 marks]

  • They used fines
  • They used the weregild system which was determined using blood prices
  • They used blood feuds which were the legal right of the victim's family to hunt down and kill the murderer for revenge
  • Mutaliation was used; for example if you stole from the church you had your hand cut off
  • The tithing system was also used, this is when groups of 10 men were responisble for each other's actions.
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Trail by bread - this trial was used for priests. The accused priest had to eat a piece of bread blessed by another priest, if they choked then god though they were guilty. This was a lenient trial as it was thought thay god would not let a guilty priest survive. 

Trial by hot iron - the accused had to hold an iron and walk three paces; their hand was then bandaged and checked in three days time. If the hand had healed god had aided them and they were innocent.

Trial by cold water - the accused was tied and thrown into a deep pond; if they were innocent they drowned as god wanted them.

*These trials show that god and religion were very important in Anglo - Saxon England as the ordeals let god be the ultimate judge. Additionally most trials took place in a church.

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