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Legal history: England & common law tradition: Crime

History of criminal law & crime in England

An excellent starting point are chapters 29 & 30 of Baker's book below:

To find other books on SOLO try the subject searches

Corrections -- England -- History --
Criminal law --  England -- History --
Criminology -- England -- History --
Criminal justice, Administration of -- England -- History --

You can refine all of these by adding a period eg to 1500, or 16th century, 17th century, 18th century, 19th century, or 20th century.

Expect to find that the Bodleian History Faculty Library has books in this area of research too!

Hierarchy of criminal courts from 1200s to 1971

  • petty sessions / magistrates' courts heard the most minor if offences
  • quarter sessions (because held 4 times a year) were local county courts
  • judges from the higher central courts of Westminster travelled  out on circuits twice a year to hear the most serious criminal cases at the assizes held in the main county towns

Online resources available to all


Archives & statistics

Reading the records even when in English requires understanding of the contemporary legal terminology: for example, the phrase "Death recorded" (from 1823) was not a synonym for execution having been carried out.