Punishments and Law Enforcement - Norman England


As part of the series on Crime and Punishment in the UK 1250 to 1500, this study slide set explores the punishments and law enforcement in Norman England. Features material on the Kings Mund and trial by combat.
Andrew Burke
Slide Set by Andrew Burke, updated more than 1 year ago
Andrew Burke
Created by Andrew Burke almost 6 years ago

Resource summary

Slide 1

    Community and Change in Punishment
    The Norman system of punishment relied heavily on a mixture of physical punishments, fines and execution. The Normans did end the system of wergild and fines now went to the king's officials. The king centralised law enforcement and extended his authority in crime and punishment.  The Norman law system was founded on the idea that all people should expect to be safe from crime, and to live peacefully within their communities, under the authority of the king. This idea is known as the king's mund.  Crime interrupted the king's mund. Therefore, there was an increase in crimes that were punishable by death or mutilation. In the Forest Laws, poaching carried the death penalty. Considering it was seen as a social crime, many people thought the punishment was unjust.  Mutilation was an alternative to the death penalty sometimes. This might include branding or chopping off a body part. 

Slide 2

    Trial by Combat
    The Normans carried on the system of trial by ordeal from the Anglo-Saxons. However, they introduced a new ordeal - trial by combat. This trial was suited to situations where the was a dispute over large sums of money or land.  Two people involved in the argument would fight using swords or large sticks. This was seen as a more honourable option for rich people.

Slide 3

    Changes to Law Enforcement
    Local collective responsibility continued under the Normans as a means of apprehending suspects for crimes. Similarly to the Anglo-Saxons, every male over 12 had to belong to a tithing. If any member of that tithing was accused of a crime, the rest of the tithing would be expected to find the accused and take them to the local authorities.  The hue and cry also continued. When a suspect escaped, all villagers were obligated to hunt them down and make sure justice was carried out. Community-based systems for enforcing the law continued to remain the most efficient and supreme means of addressing crime and punishment. 
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