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Tales from the Hanging Court

Overview

Tales from the Hanging Court draws on published accounts of Old Bailey trials from 1674-1834, a rich seam of social, political and legal history. Through these compelling true stories of theft, murder, rape and blackmail, Hitchcock and Shoemaker capture the early history of the judicial system and the colorful, vibrant and sometimes scandalous world of pre-industrial London.

In its heyday the court was a soap opera of intrigue, sensation and murky goings on where authors such as...

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Overview

Tales from the Hanging Court draws on published accounts of Old Bailey trials from 1674-1834, a rich seam of social, political and legal history. Through these compelling true stories of theft, murder, rape and blackmail, Hitchcock and Shoemaker capture the early history of the judicial system and the colorful, vibrant and sometimes scandalous world of pre-industrial London.

In its heyday the court was a soap opera of intrigue, sensation and murky goings on where authors such as Dickens and Defoe would go for inspiration. Thieves and murderers were often caught by members of the public and prosecutions brought by victims. Hitchcock and Shoemaker chart an increasingly sophisticated society taking crime and punishment away from the anarchy of the London mob to put it into a court where a judge and jury meted out justice.

The authors paint a vivid picture of a flourishing city where market capitalism and Enlightenment thinking battled to impose order on the chaotic crime that accompanied Britain's economic miracle.

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
"Anybody who has struggled with historic legal records knows they can be a complex subject, but the authors offer a clear introduction to court procedure and, more importantly, to the 18th century criminal system.... The book is largely about the men and women who appeared before the court, as well as the witnesses and victims. Their accounts offer a unique and fascinating glimpse into ordinary life in the 18th century, from the clothes worn to the few precious possessions people owned.... This is an important and serious book on 18th century society, but it is also one that brings the lives of ordinary people very much to life."—Simon Fowler, Ancestors

"This thoughtful collection of criminal trials provides a fascinating insight into the murky world of 18th-century London. The authors have assembled a wealth of extracts from proceeding at the Old Bailey and the reader will meet an astonishing cast of characters: murderous husbands, highwaymen, prostitutes, and the rest. The workings of the criminal justice system—from arrest through to public execution—are closely examined, but this book is far more than social history. Devotees of Defoe and Fielding will enjoy glimpsing the real world behind those writers' famous fictions."—The Good Book Guide

"Hitchcock and Shoemaker feel no need to jazz up this rich period detail to bring it to life, and maintain a scholarly distance from the material...in doing so, they leave room for an even more interesting account of a society's dawning realization, over the course of a revolutionary century, that crime and punishment needed to be taken out of the hands of the mob and set up in rational lines. This was a time when an orphan could live for a week by stealing a single handkerchief, but be hanged for less; when stocks and pillories were still in use, duels were still fought, and the medieval punishment of 'pressing' to death—spread eagled on the ground and poled with heavy weights—was still on the statute books; when your jailer could invite you upstairs for a beer or leave you in an airless dungeon with no water on a whim; when you might be murdered in your bed for some linen or a silver tankard."—Time Out

"I loved this book and found it utterly compelling."—Kathryn Hughes, author of The Short Life and Long Times of Mrs Beeton

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780340913741
  • Publisher: Bloomsbury Academic
  • Publication date: 12/1/2006
  • Series: A Hodder Arnold Publication
  • Pages: 288
  • Product dimensions: 6.35 (w) x 9.56 (h) x 0.84 (d)

Meet the Author

Robert Shoemaker and Tim Hitchcock are the Editors of the online proceedings of the Old Bailey archives.

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Table of Contents

Prologue

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