Most historical studies of English justices of the peace have concentrated on the work of county commissions, leaving the sparser records of city and borough justices largely neglected. This early order book of the city of Oxford's justices in quarter sessions illustrates the special problems of an urban magistracy in a rather special place, at a time when both university and city were feeling the strain of rapid population growth in a cramped environment. It shows, sometimes in harrowing detail, how the Oxford Bench [an unusual mix of shopkeepers, brewers, lawyers, and university dons] struggled to control crime, vagrancy, disorder, and poverty in a divided community. Much of the business of these early seventeenth-century courts would be all too familiar to the modern magistrate: an endless stream of cases of petty larceny, assault, abusive behaviour, unlicensed ale-selling; hopeless recidivists testing the patience of the court to its limit. The sanctions available to the seventeenth-century JP, however, were very different, fines and imprisonment being much less common than consignment to the whipping post, the cage, the stocks, the ducking stool, the House of Correction and, when all else failed, the gallows.
Publisher: Oxford Historical Society
Number of pages: 234
Weight: 666 g
Dimensions: 216 x 138 x 15 mm
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