Mitrofanov Vladimir Petrovich, Doctor of historical sciences, professor, sub-department of general history and social science, Penza State University (40 Krasnaya street, Penza, Russia), E-mail: email@example.com
Background. The topic of the article is relevant in connection with the insufficient elaboration in historiography of such a specific phenomenon of everyday life in late medieval England as crime. A special study of this aspect based on one of the brightest English treatises of the 16th century will allow us to understand better the meaning of various types of crimes and punishments for their commission in the everyday life of the British, as well as the view of a contemporary, antiquary William Harrison, the author of the treatise, on these phenomena of social life.
Materials and methods. The dialectical method of cognition and special methods of historical research, a textual analysis and synthesis of W. Harrison’s treatise “Description of England”, as well as some other sources, special English-language literature and a number of works by domestic authors, were carried out. This research methodology made it possible to identify the types of crimes committed in 16th century’s English society, in the context of their description by the author of the treatise.
Results. Using the narrative source “Description of England” by W. Harrison, we examined two main categories of crimes (“treason” and “felony”), some misconduct, as well as practiced punishments for their commission, the author’s attitude to these phenomena and thereby made a certain contribution to Russian studies of English history.
Conclusions. W. Garrison examines the types of crimes and punishments for them not from the standpoint of a lawyer, but from the standpoint of an antiquary. He certainly delves into history in order to find the origins of the crimes that existed in his time and the types of punishments for them. His description of crimes and punishments for them is sometimes detailed to the smallest detail and gives a vivid idea of this aspect of the social history of England in the 16th century. The legal thought of the enlishmens has not yet advanced much in comparison with the period of the classical Middle Ages. In addition to the well-known classification of crimes “high treason”, “felony”, and even the “misdiminor”, which the author did not mention at all, there was no more fractional classification in the common law of the English kingdom. In the description of the methods of punishment by the author of the treatise, there are not only cruelty characteristic of that time, but also obvious archaisms. At the same time, an understanding of the proportionality of the type of crime and punishment, intentional and unintentional crime, etc., can be traced in the legal consciousness of the englishmens, etc. Contemporaries understood the special danger and harm of crimes committed by a group of people, which was taken into account in the methods of punishment. The penalties were influenced by the church and canon law. As in previous centuries, the publicity of punishments remained, which, apparently, was still considered necessary to satisfy the victim of the crime and to edify the rest. The author of the treatise does not condemn the existing practice of punishment for crimes in England and even describes in detail, like other phenomena of everyday life.
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