Crime, Justice and Discretion in England 1740-1820
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Crime, Justice and Discretion in England 1740-1820

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The criminal law has often been seen as central to the rule of the eighteenth-century landed elite in England. This book presents a detailed analysis of the judicial processs - of victims' reactions, pretrial practices, policing, magistrates hearings, trials, sentencing, pardoning and punishment - using property offenders as its main focus. The period 1740-1820 - the final era before the coming of the new police and the repeal of the capital code - emerges as the great age of discretionary justice, and the book explores the impact of the vast discretionary powers held by many social groups. It reassesses both the relationship between crime rates and the economic deprivation, and the many ways that vulnerability to prosecution varied widely across the lifecycle, in the light of the highly selective nature of pretrial negotiations. More centrally, by asking at every stage - who used the law, for what purposes, in whose interests and with what social effects - it opens up a number of new perspectives on the role of the law in eighteenth-century social relations. The law emerges as less the instrument of particular elite groups and more as an arena of struggle, of negotiation, and of compromise. Its rituals were less controllable and its merciful moments less manageable and less exclusively available to the gentry elite than has been previously suggested. Justice was vulnerable to power, but was also mobilised to constrain it. Despite the key functions that the propertied fulfilled, courtroom crowds, the counter-theatre of the condemned, and the decisions of the victims from a very wide range of backgrounds had a role to play, and the criteria on which decisions were based were shaped as much by the broad and more humane discourse which Fielding called the 'good mind' as by the instrumental needs of the propertied elites.show more

Product details

  • Paperback | 398 pages
  • 154.9 x 233.7 x 22.9mm | 567g
  • Oxford University Press
  • Oxford, United Kingdom
  • English
  • numerous tables and figures and 1 map
  • 0199259070
  • 9780199259076
  • 1,040,460

Review quote

Peter King's Crime, Justice and Discretion in England 1740-1820 is on a par with the groundbreaking research of Thompson and his students ... every paragraph teems with evidence of King's mastery of the secondary sources, his painstaking archival research, and judicious consideration of the material he has assembled. * Clive Emsley, Reviews in History * Peter King has produced a stunning account of discretionary justice in the criminal process ... a wonderful blend of quantitative and qualitative analysis ... There is a library of first-rate studies of the criminal process in eighteenth century England. This book is among the very best of them ... I rank it along side John Beattie's (1986) magisterial award winning study, Crime and the Courts in England: 1660-1800, as one of the two best ... a stunning achievement. * Law and Politics Book Review * interesting, thoughtful, scholarly and well-written * History Today * This thorough empirical study of the prosecution of property offences in the English courts will stand alongside the classic studies of the eighteenth [century] history of crime by Beattie, Hay, Gatrell, Langbein, Linebaugh and Thompson... but one will never be able to read their works again unscathed by King's incisive commentary and powerful counter evidence... Criminologists seeking to gain new perspective on the meanings of crime and the social role of the criminal law will learn much from the extraordinarily vivid picture drawn by King of the workings of the eighteenth century criminal court. * British Journal of Criminology 41, 2001 * Peter King's Crime, Justice and Discretion in England 1740-1820 is on a par with the groundbreaking research of Thompson and his students ... every paragraph teems with evidence of King's mastery of the secondary sources, his painstaking archival research, and judicious consideration of the material he has assembled. * Clive Emsley, Reviews in History * Peter King has produced a stunning account of discretionary justice in the criminal process ... a wonderful blend of quantitative and qualitative analysis ... There is a library of first-rate studies of the criminal process in eighteenth century England. This book is among the very best of them ... I rank it along side John Beattie's (1986) magisterial award winning study, Crime and the Courts in England: 1660-1800, as one of the two best ... a stunning achievement. * Law and Politics Book Review * interesting, thoughtful, scholarly and well-written * History Today * This thorough empirical study of the prosecution of property offences in the English courts will stand alongside the classic studies of the eighteenth /century/ history of crime by Beattie, Hay, Gatrell, Langbein, Linebaugh and Thompson... but one will never be able to read their works again unscathed by King's incisive commentary and powerful counter evidence... Criminologists seeking to gain new perspective on the meanings of crime and the social role of the criminal law will learn much from the extraordinarily vivid picture drawn by King of the workings of the eighteenth century criminal court. * British Journal of Criminology 41, 2001 * Review from previous edition This book is the long-anticipated culmination of many years' work, and it has been worth waiting... Overall, this book is a fine complement to John Beattie's study of London for the previous period (Policing and Punishment in London 1660-1750: Urban Crime and the Limits of Terror, OUP 2001), so that between them we have a comprehensive picture of crime and the law... from the Restoration to the early nineteenth century. * Peter Rushton, Punishment and Society *show more

Table of contents

PART I: PRETRIAL PROCESSES; PART II: OFFENCES AND OFFENDERS; PART III: FROM TRIAL TO PUNISHMENTshow more

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