Early Modern Britain
Some towns decided to employ watchmen to patrol the streets
Thief Takers were men who hunted down criminals for rewards. A bit
like bounty hunters. The reward was paid by the person who had
If you were robbed you really had to catch the criminal yourself. You
could summon a magistrate or post a reward for anyone who could
catch the criminal.
The Justice of the
Peace took care of local
Women could not be JPs, jury
members or take any other important
role in the law.
In fact if a women was drunk she
would get a more severe punishment
than a man.
Even women who were raped were
sometimes put on trial.
Increased travel abroad lead to
Increased travel on roads lead to
a lot more Highway Robbery
Religious upheaval lead to
Growth of towns lead to an increase in
Vagrants were whipped on
the first offence. If caught
again they could be
executed. Most people
The rich were tough on
thieves, vagrants, and
Dick Turpin was a famous
Jonathan Wild was a criminal who
pretended to be a thief taker. He
controlled all the criminals of London.
Puritans were christians who were very
religious. They tried to ban christmas.
During the 1650s they ruled England and
there were punishments for not attending
church, drinking, gambling, playing sports
on Sundays and blaspheming.
Most of the old punishments were used such as, Stocks, pillory, whipping, fines,
mutilation, execution. The 2 new punishments were Transportation and
The Bridewell was a
very early form of prison
meant to correct bad
Transportation was given as a punishment for
serious crime such as theft. Some protester
were transported. Initially this was to America
but by the late 1700s America was
independent so we transported our criminals to
Vagrants were whipped on the first offence and executed on the second.
The law was harsh because it was made by rich people who wanted to
protect their wealth. The punishment was meant to deter people.
The Bloody Code was the name given to the laws
that stated that you could be executed for many
crimes such as poaching or even going out at
night with a darkened face.
Witches were tortured hanged or burnt at the stake
Protesters were hanged
Women who argued in public or got
too drunk were sometimes put in a
Scold’s Bridle. Other times they
might be dunked.
Kings and Parliament made laws together by the end of this period.
The Parliament consisted of rich land owners and wealthy members
of the gentry. They passed laws to protect their wealth.
Habeaus Corpus laws stated that
you couldn’t be imprisoned without a
The use of Lawyers became more
common and juries dealt with one
case at a time.
The Bloody Code didn’t work because juries were reluctant to
execute people for small crimes such as poaching.
Britain went from being ruled by a
king, to being ruled by puritan to
being ruled by parliament. At
the same time we conquered lots
of countries abroad and lots of
The Court System did not
change much at all.
Because it worked!