Mr Christopher Whittick (East Sussex County Archives)
Full day - from 10.00 to 17.00
Maximum: 15 students
Venue: Senate House

This course, which is aimed at those with some palaeographical experience, aims to provide a brief overview of the records produced by criminal justice in the localities in the early modern period, together with a practical application of their use.  In the morning we will study the different types of documents, comparing post-1733 English forms with their earlier Latin equivalents. No fluency in Latin will be required, but the course will aim to encourage students to exploit the English forms as a means of understanding the Latin ones. In the afternoon, we will examine the same types of documents, using examples all derived from the same case at the Sussex Quarter Sessions in 1656, during the brief period when English was used for court records. The documents to be studied will be circulated in advance of the class.  Students are expected to read the hand-outs and to attempt to transcribe the documents in advance, so as to get the most out of the course. Anyone wishing to attend who has a particular document on which s/he needs help or advice is most welcome to notify the tutor in advance and bring it along, though total satisfaction with the results is not guaranteed!  Students who have completed the Introduction to English Palaeography course should have enough experience to study the material contained in this one.



J S Cockburn, A History of English Assizes, 1558-1714 (1972): an invaluable guide to assize records.

J S Cockburn, Calendars of Assize Records for the Home Circuit (Essex, Herts, Kent, Surrey and Sussex) for 1558-1625 (continued to 1684 for Kent): another invaluable guide to assize records.

J S Cockburn, ‘Early-modern assize records as historical evidence’, Journal of the Society of Archivists, 5 (1975), 215-231: on the pitfalls in taking the records at face value.

D T Hawkings, Criminal Ancestors (1992): on assizes and related records.

J H Gleason, The Justices of the Peace in England 1558 to 1640 (1969): for Quarter and Petty Sessions.

Conyers Read (ed.), William Lambarde and Local Government (1962): case study of a clerk of the peace and JP.

L Knafla, Kent at Law, 1602 (1994): a year in the legal life of an English county.

Cynthia Herrup, The Common Peace (1987): excellent account of the pre-trial process before the introduction of the police force.

John Baker, The Legal Profession and the Common Law (1986): three useful essays on formal procedures at a trial:

  • Criminal Courts and Procedure at Common Law, 1550-1800
  • The Refinement of English Criminal Jurisprudence 1500-1848
  • Criminal Justice at Newgate.