How was law made in England in the eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries? Through detailed studies of what the courts actually did, Peter King argues that parliament and the Westminster courts played a less important role in the process of law making than is usually assumed. Justice was often remade from the margins by magistrates, judges and others at the local level. His book also focuses on four specific themes - gender, youth, violent crime and the attack on customary rights. In doing so it highlights a variety of important changes - the relatively lenient treatment meted out to women by the late eighteenth century, the early development of the juvenile reformatory in England before 1825, i.e. before similar changes on the continent or in America, and the growing intolerance of the courts towards everyday violence. This study is invaluable reading to anyone interested in British political and legal history.
Peter King is Professor of History at the Open University, Milton Keynes. His previous publications include Crime, Justice and Discretion, Law and Social Relations in England 1740-1820 (2000).