History Crime and Punishment

Crime and Punishment since 1450-1750

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Medival Ideas about different types of crime and p

Hanging was highly used for many crimes such as:

  • Murder
  • Treason
  • ****
  • Arson
  • Theft of over 12 pence (around 2 days pay)
  • Robery

Fines of money was also a commonly used punishment for crime like:

  • Assult
  • Breaking Legal Agreements
  • Selling goods for incorrect prices
  • Paying too high a wage to attract people away from other villages

Crime was prevents in several key ways for example in 1285 it was ordered that people should clear the main road on either side of bushes to prevent road theft.

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Medival Detectives

When a person was brought to court, two methods were used to decide their guilt or innocence:


  • The accused person would be judged according to their peers.
  • If they the accused person had enough people swearing on oath corncerning their past good behaviour they would be let out.


  • By 1450 this was the most commonly used method for determining if someone is guilty or innocent.
  • A group of local people looked upon the evidence.
  • They also listened to witnesses and discussed the person on trial and how they usually behave.
  • They will then make a final desicion.
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The poor and beggars and how they were treated wit

The economy in the 14th and 15th Century and forced more people to be out of work and wander on the streets as beggars. There was great concern about the increasing amount of beggars on the streets in Elizabethan England.

A timeline of why the number of beggars increased:

problems in the cloth industry, so less jobs ----->  inflation -----> Landowners kept sheep instead of crops so less people needed -----> Closure of monasteries decreased support for the poor -----> End of wars in England so soldiers out of work ------> population increase so more jobs needed -----> No national system to help the poor, sick and unemployed.

Changes in society led to increased numbers of beggars and a panic. This led to the treatment of heathy beggars as criminals. Despite the laws against begging, it was impossible to stop because it was bought on by wider social causes.

  • Political changes between 1485-1750 caused rulers to feel under threat.
  • This led to an increase in accusations of treason.
  • Earlier harsh punishments- designed to crush opposition to royal power- were increasily used in this period of time.
  • Lessening of political tension after 1750 reduced the use of such punishments.
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Causes of crimes

  • Laws protecting the rights and property of the wealthy and most crimes committed by the poor were crimes against property.
  • As population rose, more people lived in towns, rulers found it hard to control people and social crime (poaching) became a challenge to authority.

Growth of towns = Footpads in dark alleys

Enclosure of land, including common land once used by all = Hedge levelling to give access to common land again

Changes in religious belief = Refusal to follow official religious beliefs

Increased unemployment = Beggars wandering from town to town

Improved quality of roads = Highwaymen on open roads, robbing travelling

Divine Right People believe that G-d chose the King and Queen

Hierarchy Society Having a strict order with the Rich at the top and the poor at the bottom

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The Bloody Code

The bloody code was a list of laws that carried the death penalty.

It was used as a deterrent to people to stop committing crimes and gradually the list became longer.

1688 - 50 crimes carrying the death penalty

1765 - 160 crimes carrying the death penalty

1815 - 225 crimes carrying the death penalty

The bloody code was not successful in preventing crimes and many juries refused to find a person guilty if a death penalty would follow. In the 18th Century less people were hung than ever before.

Sir Robert Peel in 1823 decreased the number of crimes on the bloody code list to just over 100 crimes.

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