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Crime and Punishment
  Crime 1450-1750 Main page

Did Governments in this period decide what kinds of people were to be regarded as criminals?

The BIG QUESTION in this Strand is about how much crime has changed over the centuries. One of the big factors affecting crime is the attitude of the government. Because they pass the laws, governments can decide what kinds of actions are crimes and what aren't. Sometimes these change: new crimes are created, or old ones abandoned.

In the period covered by this section, England became a more prosperous and, on the whole, more peaceful country. Some people became very well off indeed, as you can tell from the many fine houses they built, still to be seen in our towns and countryside.
At the same time there were huge tensions in the country. The Reformation brought terrible conflicts between Roman Catholics and Protestants. There was a bloody Civil War from 1642 to 1651. Rising population forced thousands of people into poverty. There were rebellions. The rich and powerful had a lot to lose and felt that some types of people were a threat to them. They used the increased powers of the government to define new crimes - and so turned certain people into criminals.
But did everybody agree with the government's definitions of crime? In the period covered by this section "the government" was not democratically elected. What happened if ordinary people disagreed about who should be treated as a criminal?
In the Case-Studies in this Gallery of the Crime Strand you will find examples of how the government made certain people criminals, by using the law. At the same time, you will see whether ordinary people agreed with these decisions.

Six Case-Studies:
2. Heresy & Treason
3. Witchcraft
4. Highwaymen
5. Smuggling
6. Poaching

How To Work
1. Work through each of these Case-Studies. Read and analyse the Sources in each. There are HINTS in each Case-Study to help you get the most out of the Sources.
2. At the end of your Case-Study, fill in some of the Gallery Worksheet.
3. Move on to the next Case-Study. You will only be able to answer the Key Question when you have done most or all of the Case-Studies. However, you could divide the job around the class, sharing your results from different versions of the Gallery Worksheet.

Game Worksheet Case Study 6 Poaching Case Study 5 Smuggling Case Study 4 Highwaymen Case Study 3 Witchcraft Case Study 2  Heresy & Treason Case Study 1  Vagabonds End To Prevention 1450-1750 To Crime 1750-1900 Case Studies To Crime before 1450