Crime and Punishment Early Modern Period 1500-1700

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  • Crime and Punishment Early Modern Period 1500-1700
    • Law Enforcement
      • Continuities
        • People living in villages and towns were still expected to raise the hue and cry. Justices of the Peace and sheriffs continued to enforce the law
      • Changes
        • Nightwatchmen were introduced to patrol towns at night
        • Thief takers began to catch criminals in return for a reward
        • Town constables were put in charge of law enforcement in towns and cities. They caught criminals and rounded up vagabonds
    • Punishments
      • Continuities
        • Most punishments from 1000-1500 continued including the stocks and pillory, fines, mutilation and execution
      • Changes
        • The Bloody Code was introduced in 1688 and this increased the number of crimes which carried the death penalty
        • Houses of Correction were introduced for vagabonds from 1576. The first one was called ‘Brideswell Prison’
        • Transportation was introduced in the 1660s. Criminals were sent to America (later Australia) for seven years
    • Case Study
      • Gunpowder plot
        • James I introduced a number of anti-Catholic laws and this led to a group of conspirators, led by Robert Catesby, plotting to kill the King.The plan was to put 36 barrels of gunpowder under the Houses of Parliament and explode it when the King was inside. The plot was discovered when Guy Fawkes was found with the gunpowder. The plotters were publically hanged, drawn and quartered.
        • When James I became King in 1603 Catholics hoped that he would give them more freedom than had been the case under the previous monarch, Elizabeth I
    • New Crimes
      • Heresy
        • Henry VIII made himself head of the Church in England in 1534. As head of the country and the Church, treason and heresy became interlinked
        • From 1500 Europe was divided between the Catholic and Protestant religions this caused an increase in executions for heresy
        • Mary I made England a Catholic country and executed nearly 300 Protestants
        • Edward VI made England a strongly Protestant country and executed Catholics for Heresy
        • Elizabeth I made England Protestant but tried to avoid executing Catholics unless they plotted against her
      • The Witchcraze
        • There were 4 main causes
          • The English Civil War – saw soldiers move around the country and spread stories about witches
          • Leaders – James I strongly believed in witches and wrote a book about them called ‘Demonologie’
          • Individuals – Witchfinder General Matthew Hopkins encouraged people to search for witches
          • Unemployment and poverty were widespread between 1500 and 1600. People blamed their unemployment on being cursed by witches
        • Around 1000 women were executed for witchcraft 1500 -1700
        • Laws  on WItchcraft
          • 1735 Witchcraft Act – ended the official belief in witchcraft. This was a result of the enlightenment
          • 1604 Witchcraft Act – allowed the use of the death penalty for anyone who ‘summoned evil spirits’. People were also encouraged to conduct their own witch trials
          • 1542 Witchcraft Act – made witchcraft punishable by death
          • 1563 Act against Witchcraft – said that ‘harmful’ witchcraft should be punished by death. ‘Non-harmful’ witchcraft should be punished by time in the stocks
      • Cromwell’s moral laws
        • Pubs were closed down and drinking alcohol was made a crime
        • Entertainment such as football, dancing and theatre were banned
        • Make up and bright clothes were banned Celebrations such as feasts at Christmas and Easter were banned
        • Oliver Cromwell was a puritan who ruled England between 1564 and 1568. During this time England had no King or Queen and laws were based on Puritan beliefs. Any distraction from God was criminalised
      • Vagabondage
        • The 1536 Sturdy Vagabonds Act said that anyone found outside the area of their birth without work would be whipped
        • Vagabondage became a crime as many believed that beggars were choosing to be vagabonds rather than working
        • The 1547 Vagrancy Act said that any Vagabonds who could actually work should be branded with the letter V
        • A rising population, rising food prices, falling wages and unemployment led to an increase in vagabondage
        • The 1576 Poor Law said that vagabonds should be imprisoned in ‘Houses of Correction’


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