The History of Crime and Punishment in England and Europe
This course has three principal strands of study: the meaning and incidence of ‘crime’; the administration of justice via courts and trial procedure; and penal policy. In this course these areas are studied over the centuries from 1200-1860, a crucial period in European history because it encompassed the feudal regime, the Protestant Reformation, several bursts of state formation, the transformation of the ‘public sphere’, and the development of urban-industrial societies. All of these ‘events’ had a considerable impact on mentalities, communities, and cultures with their corresponding determinations as to desirable social norms and the persecution and prosecution of deviance. They were also infirmed by the principal legal cultures in Europe: Roman or ‘civil law’, church law, and common law.
In this course students are encouraged to consider all of these factors against two prevailing historiographical issues. First, what were the social agencies for change in labelling crime and dealing with criminals? And second, how should we interpret the transformation in criminal law and its enforcement which took place towards the end of the period: was it ‘civilising reform’ or ‘an economy of industrial discipline’?
Second Life™ is used in this course primarily as a resource. Students given a choice of a 1,500 word book review or exposition of Second Life™. Those who choose the exposition are required to create an avatar, enter and explore the virtual London site where relevant locations have been recreated. These include: the gallows at Charing Cross, the Old Bailey, the Watch House, Newgate Goal and the Fleet Street Library. At these locations, interactive elements are available which supply historical background about buildings and events. Within this virtual world there are also essential links to primary document sources, such as Old Bailey Trials, as well as links to relevant websites and other archival sources. As with all courses using this technology, instruction and support both in class and online is provided to students. The principal aim of the exercise is primarily to encourage students to explore and utilise the virtual London site and secondly to evaluate its value as an interactive learning environment.