Nature of Crimes

Nature of Crimes

Early Middle Ages (c.500-1066)

  • Crimes were often viewed in relation to sin and morality, reflecting the cultural and religious influences of the period.
  • Widespread crimes included theft, violence, and murder.
  • Legislation and enforcement were localised, with a system of tithings able to enforce local rules.
  • Social order was maintained through violent punishments, social shaming, or compensation.

Late Middle Ages (1066-1500)

  • Serious crimes including treason, heresy, and witchcraft became more prevalent.
  • The influence of the Normans impacted the English legal system, introducing the feudal system of justice.
  • Less violent crimes such as vagrancy were increasingly seen as a problem as society became more urbanised.
  • Legal codes such as the ‘forest laws’ and ‘assizes’ were introduced to standardise crimes and punishments.

Early Modern Period (1500-1700)

  • The significant event of the English Reformation led to religious crimes such as heresy.
  • A growth in population and urbanisation increased occurrence of crimes like begging and vagrancy.
  • Witch hunts became prevalent due to changes in religious beliefs.
  • Changes in understanding of property rights led to an increase in crimes against property such as poaching and theft.

Industrial Revolution (1700-1900)

  • The rise of industrialisation saw crimes associated with education, employment and the poor law.
  • Changes in social expectations and legislation resulted in the rise of ‘morality crimes’, such as drunkenness.
  • The development of a market economy and new forms of property saw an increase in white-collar crimes such as fraud.
  • Transportation crimes, committed by those trying to secure a passage to the New World, were common.

20th Century Present (1900-Present)

  • The World Wars led to an increase in crimes such as desertion, looting and black market trades.
  • As society modernised and roles changed, crimes like domestic abuse and hate crimes became legally recognized and robustly dealt with.
  • The development of technology resulted in new crimes, such as computer crimes and internet fraud.
  • Changes in societal perspectives led to laws addressing crimes such as drunken driving, drug abuse and environmental crimes.