Tuesday, March 03, 2015

Question from Sarah - Resources on crime in 16th century England and Wales

Can anyone recommend a book on crime in 16th century England and Wales - is there an area which has been well-explored?


PhD Historian said...

Could you perhaps narrow the subject just a bit? "Crime" is such a very broad topic.

Since there were no police forces in England in the sixteenth century, much of what we would today call "crime" was handled somewhat informally by the local community (see, for example, McIntosh, Controlling Misbehavior in England, 1370-1600). And to complicate the issue even further, some "crimes" fell under the jurisdiction of church courts rather than civil courts. Is there some particular aspect of criminal activity that you are interested in, such as theft or murder?

Yes, the entire broad subject of "crime," including virtually every sub-area, has been extensively studied. This is in large part due to the fact that legal and court records are some of the best preserved. For example, a search of the Bibliography of British and Irish History (BBIH ... a subscription-only online database) using the single keyword "crime" and the limiting parameters "1500-1600" results in 1350 hits. Sub-topics range from theft to murder to organized public violence to spontaneous public violence to abductions to wife-beating (and husband-beating) to rape to piracy to infanticide to witchcraft to prostitution to the history of prisons. As you can no doubt see, the study of "crime" is really an amalgamation of a multitude of sub-fields.

So ... if you have some particular aspect of "crime" that you wish to study, let me know what it is and I will be happy to check the BBIH for that particular sub-field. But i did not find any general survey on "crime" as a broad topic. The field is so well explored that it is all sub-specialty studies.

Sarah said...

Thanks so much. What I was looking for was an overview on all crimes during the Tudor period, and perhaps there isn't a book that's pulled it all together in that way. I will order McIntosh's book and thanks for giving me some very useful information.