Prosecution and process : Crime and criminal law in late seventeenth-century Yorkshire
One of the problems that has bedevilled much discussion of crime in
the past has been the lack of consistency in its categorization. In
this thesis a systematic attempt has been made to resolve these
difficulties and to provide a categorization based principally on an
analysis of contemporary jurists. It is further argued that it is
essential to consider the state of the criminal law in the
seventeenth century in order properly to appreciate the subtleties of
the law and thus the framework within which prosecution occurred.
This framework is important in showing how. contrary to received
belief. the criminal law in the period was comparatively
sophisticated. This was the case. not only in theory. but also in
practice. and it is a major contention of this thesis that the
complexities of the law were recognized by contemporaries. and.
indeed. affected the practices of prosecution.
Most work on crime in the past has. to date, concentrated on the
counties of the Home Circuit. close to. and doubtless influenced by.
London. but in this thesis the material that exists in abundance for
the Northern Circuit has been utilized to provide a picture of the
pattern of crime. or rather of prosecution. in Yorkshire. From this
it has been possible to see that the pattern was, in many ways,
similar to that elsewhere. but that there were also significant
differences. in particular a very high proportion of offences against
the authorities. The chronological spread of the prosecution of crime
has also been analysed and again it is plain that Yorkshire did not
witness the decline in prosecution that might. from other studies.
have been anticipated to have occurred by the end of the seventeenth
The different influences on prosecution have also been considered and
in particular it has been shown that central government initiatives
were of considerable significance in affecting the prosecution of
certain offences, especially those which impacted directly on the
state, such as sedition and coining.