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Book Chapter

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My recent book provided an overview of the history of the institutional aspects of the English criminal trial jury upon which all of the contributors to this volume have, tacitly or otherwise, commented. That tentative institutional background was intended both to stand on its own terms and to provide a framework for the studies on the relationship between law and society and on the history of ideas regarding the jury that made up the larger part of the volume. The two aspects of my book were joined: the socio-legal analysis and the history of ideas were to a large extent founded upon my arguments about the institutional setting of the jury. The relatively brief institutional overview thus played a crucial role. The preceding essays present new information that supersedes both my own tentative soundings on institutional matters and my syntheses of existing scholarship in that area. Little of my earlier work on institutional problems-jury composition and the like-remains exactly as it was before. Parts of that foundation have been shattered; here and there beams sag; some walls have, I am glad to say, actually been reinforced. In this essay I shall assess the present shape of the structure, following a roughly chronological approach, and, as I did in the conclusion to my earlier work, I shall indicate some matters that particularly require further investigation. My task is to provide an overview of the preceding essays, perhaps even to bring some unity to them, as I view them in relation to my own work. In particular, I shall emphasize the implications of these studies of jury composition for three problems central not only to the history of the English criminal trial jury but also to the history of the administration of the English criminal law generally. These problems involve (1) the way in which the medieval jury was informed and reached its verdict; (2) the degree and the form of the independence that the early-modern jury enjoyed at a time when the powers of the bench were very great; and (3) the role of the eighteenthcentury trial jury, which, although clearly independent, was, by virtue of the status and experiences of its members, arguably a mere extension of the bench.