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Although in recent decades the study of England’s early modern crime problems and its criminal justice system has flourished, there has been a general tendency for existing studies to focus either on crime, largely the province of social historians, or procedure, which is frequently left to legal historians. However, the two were inextricably interlinked; crimes were primarily defined by their legal consequences and trials were shaped by the social background to offenses.
The aim of Gregory Durston’s book is to treat the subject holistically, from initial deviance, via detection, arrest and prosecution, to final penal disposal. Thus, crime, policing, court structure, criminal trial procedure and punishment are each given detailed consideration in this tripartite study. Additionally, in a field that has become increasingly dominated by micro-histories at the expense of geographically and chronologically broader studies, Dr. Durston aims to explore wider themes while also providing a thorough account of the era’s crime problems and justice system.