Document Type

Article

Publication Date

1972

Abstract

THE early history of English criminal law lies hidden behind the laconic formulas of the rolls and law books. The rules of the law, as expounded by the judges, have been the subject of many studies; but their practical application in the courts, where the jury of the community was the final and unbridled arbiter, remains a mystery: in short, we know little of the social mores regarding crime and crimi- nals. This study represents an attempt to delineate one major aspect of these societal attitudes. Its thesis is that from late Anglo-Saxon times to the end of the middle ages, there existed a widespread societal distinction between 'murder,' i.e., homi- cide perpetrated through stealth, and simple homicide, roughly what a later legal age termed manslaughter. This distinction, which was imposed upon the courts through the instrument of the trial jury, was fundamentally at odds with the letter of the law. It is therefore necessary to state, if only briefly, what the rules of law were.


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