The justices of the peace and the administration of local government in the East and West Ridings of Yorkshire between 1680 and 1750
The purpose of this thesis is to examine the criminal, civil and administrative work of the county magistrates of the East and West Ridings of Yorkshire between 1680 and 1750. There is a distinct lack of regional studies for this period, though much has been written about the county community during the era of the English Revolution of the mid seventeenth century and about the effect upon local society of the industrialisation of the late eighteenth century. This is a serious omission for late Stuart and early Georgian times comprise a vital period in the development of local government. It was a time when the country gentlemen who acted as Justices of the Peace were most autonomous. Yet it was also a period which witnessed some fundamental and permanent changes in the organisation and administration of local government. The thesis is divided into two. The first section contains four chapters and deals with the structure of local government. The general organisation at county level is explained, and the backgrounds, interests and attitudes of the actual individuals who served as magistrates are closely examined. An analysis is also undertaken of the relationship between the Justices and central government, and special emphasis is placed on the attitudes of the Crown and Privy Council towards the membership of the commission of the peace and on the role of the Lords Lieutenant and the Assize Judges. The second section, which contains five chapters, is devoted entirely to the work of the county magistracy. A thorough examination is made of the business of the Justices both in and out of sessions and the chapters concentrate on the preservation of law and order, the enforcement of regulations affecting manners, morals and religious beliefs, the supervision of the poor, the economic responsibilities of the magistrates, and the maintenance of an adequate system of transport and communications. A concluding chapter assesses the effectiveness of the Justices in both counties in coping with the demands placed upon them, indicates how these demands changed, examines how the procedures followed were adapted to meet new requirements, and emphasises the importance of this period as an era of innovation in local government.