crimes and punishments in early-modern england

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A fantastic powerpoint by a Y8 student, Didar Randhawa, which is very useful for GCSE History students.


  • 1. History Project
  • Crime and Punishment
  • during
  • 1700-1800
  • by
  • Didar S. Randhawa

2. Pickpockets and Cutpurses

  • They were petty criminals who stole money or goods from others pockets in crowded places without them noticing.
  • Many pick pocketing cases involved prostitutes stealing from their clients .
  • Some of them also carried weapons like knives.

3. Punishment

  • The difficulty of proving that the victim had no knowledge of the crime made it difficult to convict defendants of this offence, though many were convicted of lesser charges through Partial Verdicts.
  • The punishments was fine, whipping or transportation.

4. 5. Highwaymen and Footpads

  • In 18 thcentury, thehighwayrobbery was very common. People carried their money with them as there werefew banks. The roads were not made upso travel was slow and there were few travellers. Therefore the roads were quiet. There was no police force. To stop or chase the victims of the robbery or get away quicklythe highway men rode on horseback.


  • Footpadswere the persons who robbed people on the highway like highwaymen but on the foot. They robbed people who were less rich.

7. Punishment

  • The punishment for highway robbery was death penalty.
  • The punishments for footpads were imprisonment and transportation.

8. 9. Pirates and Buccaneers

  • Apiratewas a robber who travelled by water in the hope of getting great wealth. Though most pirates targeted ships, some also launched attacks on coastal towns.
  • Pirate ships carried more crew than ordinary ships. This meant they could easily outnumber their victims. Pirates altered their ships so that they could carry far more cannon than merchant ships of the same size. They were brute with terrifying reputation, and they advertised their terror by flying various gruesome flags including the 'Jolly Roger' with its picture of skull and crossbones. All these things together meant that victims often surrendered very quickly. Sometimes there was no fighting at all.


  • Boucaneers originally were hunters who were poaching cattle and pigs. English settlers occupying Jamaica began to spread the name with the meaning of rebel pirates sailing in the Caribbean ports and seas.They were the men whohad shipwrecked or escaped from prisons, or marooned sailors or runaways.
  • However, while pirates were exclusively limited to the sea, buccaneers plundered both on the shores and on high seas.
  • They carried the weapons like special knives called boucans, cutlass and rifles.

11. Punishment

  • They were executed in public .

12. 13. Smugglers and Poachers

  • Ineighteenth century, trade routes were opened up across the known world, merchants and traders often became very wealthy by using these routes to import new, luxurygoods into England. The cost of protecting this trade was in the hands of Navy, and thus to the British government.As government started taking heavy taxes on imported items through sea route like tea, wine , cloth and spirits etc. so these items became expensive. To evade these taxes, people startedsmugglinggoods as they were cheap and people were ready to buy cheap goods. Thus smuggling became a business. Smugglers also used violence against custom officials.


  • Poachingmeans stealing wild creatures - birds, animals or fish - from those who own the land or water they live in. All thepoachers were not just poaching to eat. Some made a good business of it. They supplied it to food merchants in the towns.

15. Punishment

  • There were many punishments for smuggling, which depend on the value and amount of the goods smuggled, and the degree of violence committed. Minimum penalty to the ones involved in smuggling activities was transportation to colonies such as Australia. The ultimate punishment was death.
  • In 1723 the "Black Act" a capital offence was made in which poachers face was blackened (those caught could be hanged). Who possessed poaching equipment could get punishment for a year in prison or transportation.

16. 17. Murderers and Rebels

  • Murdererwas a person who killed another human being unlawfully.
  • Because of industrialisation social problems arose in 18 thcentury . The gap increased between rich and poor. So the poor becamerebellionsto defend themselves and fought back for economic order. They fought against dearth, high prices, wage cuttings and introduction of machinery. They wanted to be provided with social security.

18. Punishment

  • Many people tried for this offence were convicted of the lesser offence of manslaughter. After 1752, those found guilty of murder were sentenced to Death with Dissection or to be hung in chains
  • Punishment was used in an exemplary way on a small number of those involved.

19. 20. Hangmen and Executioners

  • Hangmanwas a man employed to execute condemned prisoners by hanging.
  • Hangmen weren't exclusively executioners and many also carried out normal jobs such as barbers and publicans. Hadfield was a condemned prisoner too also been sentenced for highway robbery. It was the custom at that time that the executions were carried out by a condemned prisoner who had been pardoned on condition that he would act as hangman.


  • Anexecutionerwas an official or occasional officer of the court who actually inflicted the capital punishment or certain other physical punishments to which a convict had been sentenced.
  • Many executioners were professional specialists, who usually travelled a whole area since executions would rarely be very numerous. Still, especially if a resident, he would often also administer non-lethal physical punishments, or apply torture.

22. 23. Motives for Crime

  • Motives for crime were :
  • Need poor persons took to crime to buy what they needed
  • Gain - the person intended to sell the item stolen as in the case of smuggling, robbery or theft.
  • Belief some persons believed that the law was wrong, so they took to crime as rebellions.


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