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Crime and Punishment
  Punishment 1450-1750 Main page

What was the purpose of punishments in the period 1450-1750?

The early part of this period was marked by the religious and political upheavals of the Reformation and the Civil War. There were rebellions and plots and the savage punishment for treason of hanging, drawing and quartering was used quite frequently.

From the late 17th century, however, the country was generally at peace. Royal power had been brought under control and the government was now in the hands of the property-owning rich. They ran the country as M.P.s in Parliament and as JPs in local areas.
The BIG QUESTION in this strand is about the purposes of punishments. So this Gallery looks at what punishments this ruling elite devised and what purposes these punishments had. There are interesting examples of punishments used as deterrent, and as reform - to make the offender change his or her ways.
Case-Study 1 looks at the so-called Bloody Code. This was a huge increase in the number of offences carrying the death penalty. It was used in two ways: people were hanged, in public, with great ceremony. Yet the number of people hanged, in total, declined. Those in power were holding the death penalty as a threat, and using it often enough for it not to be an empty one. Its purpose was therefore as a deterrent. But they were also demonstrating their power by choosing, sometimes apparently at whim, who should be reprieved.
Case-Study 2 looks, among other punishments, at Houses of Correction. The offender was locked away, as in prison, but not left to rot in a cell, or to learn from other inmates new ways of committing crimes. 17th century writers were quite clear about the pointlessness of prison. Those who believed in the purposes of the Houses of Correction, often Puritans, believed in the value of hard work. The purpose of a House Of Correction, therefore, was to change people's approaches to life by teaching them this lesson.

1. The Bloody Code
2. Houses of Correction and other punishments

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

Case Studies Case Study 1 The Blood Code Case Study 2 Houses of Correction End To Prevention 1450-1750 To Punishment 1750-1900 Case Studies To Punishment before 1450


Source 1 Source 2 Source 4 Source 3 Worksheet Game