This book explores the relationship between crime, law and popular culture in different areas of Europe between 1500 and 1900. It illuminates how experiences of, and attitudes to, crime and the law corresponded or differed in varying locations and contexts in early modern and modern Europe. In doing so, it also aids the reconstruction and interpretation of the legal cultures of different jurisdictions through the particular perspective offered by the operation of the courts and the criminal law.
A key theme throughout the book is the nature of the relationship between ordinary people and the official legal systems of Europe in the period between 1500 and 1900. How was crime understood and dealt with by ordinary people and to what degree did they resort to or reject the official law and criminal justice system as a means of dealing with different forms of criminal activity? And how, in turn, did the courts and the authorities more generally respond to and interpret the cases which were brought before them?
The issues addressed in this book include the participation of ordinary people as prosecutors, witnesses and jurors in the courts, the dynamics of court sittings, the sentencing practices adopted by the courts, the exercise of the prerogative of mercy and, on a broader scale, how attitudes and ways of understanding crime and the law may have changed or evolved over time in different European countries. There is also a particular, although not exclusive, emphasis on the incidence and prosecution of violent crime.
It will be essential reading for anybody with an interest in the rapidly developing field of criminal justice history.