The Slicker Wars of Missouri: 19th-Century Vigilante Justice on the Frontier

Vigilance committees formed throughout the Missouri Ozarks, and spread to several areas within the state. Introduction During the mid-1800s, conflicts between outlaws and local vigilante groups spread across the Missouri Ozarks and became known as the Slicker Wars. The Missouri Ozarks is known for its bluffs, rivers, mountains, forests, and caves. During the 1840s, this[…]

The Bald Knobbers: 19th-Century Vigilantism in the Ozarks

The Bald Knobbers, who mostly sided with the Union in the Civil War, were opposed by the Anti-Bald Knobbers, mostly Confederates. Introduction and Background The Bald Knobbers were a group of vigilantes in the Ozark region of southwest Missouri from 1883 to 1889. They are commonly depicted wearing black horned hoods with white outlines of[…]

The Legislation of Lycurgus and Solon: Politics and Law in Ancient Greece

Two alternative conceptions of government – a republic and an oligarchy. By Friedrich Schiller18th-Century Philosopher and Historian Schiller delivered his essay on Lycurgus and Solon in the context of his lectures on Universal History, at Jena University, in August 1789. The essay puts forth two alternative conceptions of government—a republican and an oligarchic form—which have[…]

The Code of Hammurabi: Crime and Punishment in Ancient Egypt

Although a social hierarchy placed some in privileged positions, the code proscribed punishments applicable to all classes. Introduction The Code of Hammurabi (also known as the Codex Hammurabi and Hammurabi’s Code), created ca. 1780 B.C.E., is one of the earliest sets of laws found and one of the best preserved examples of this type of[…]

Rulership and Justice: The Law Codes of Ancient Mesopotamia

Rulers used law codes either to justify their rule or to demonstrate examples of justice and due process during a successful reign. While most people know of Hammurabi as the author of his famous “law code,” few know that the tradition of the ruler as the guardian and administrator of justice began much earlier in[…]

The Continuation of Ancient Roman Law in the Medieval Period

Roman law came to have an immense effect on law as actually practiced in the medieval world. Introduction Medieval Roman law is the continuation and development of ancient Roman law that developed in the European Late Middle Ages. Based on the ancient text of Roman law, the Corpus iuris civilis, it added many new concepts,[…]

Algorithms Associating Criminality and Appearance Have a Dark Past

In some cases, the explicit goal of these technologies is to deny opportunities to those deemed unfit. ‘Phrenology’ has an old-fashioned ring to it. It sounds like it belongs in a history book, filed somewhere between bloodletting and velocipedes. We’d like to think that judging people’s worth based on the size and shape of their[…]

The Power of the Criminal Corpse in the Medieval World

The dying and dead body was an important locus in both religious and secular discourses of power. Introduction Taking a long-term view of the history of crime and punishment problematises any straightforwardly progressive narrative of the history of punishment as one of increasingly humane attitudes. Punishment in the Middle Ages was about retribution, but also[…]

Religious Legal Systems in Comparative Law: A Guide to Introductory Research

An overview of the major world systems, and where and how they have been and are implemented. Introduction Religious Legal Systems Religious law emanates from the sacred texts of religious traditions and in most cases purports to cover all aspects of life as a seamless part of devotional obligations to a transcendent, imminent, or deep[…]

Inspirations for and the Development of Law in Ancient Rome

The most celebrated system of jurisprudence known to the world begins, as it ends, with a Code. Ancient Codes From the commencement to the close of its history, the expositors of Roman Law consistently employed language which implied that the body of their system rested on the Twelve Decemviral Tables, and therefore on a basis[…]

An Outline of Roman Civil Procedure

The Romans resolved civil disputes by recourse to litigation based on law. Abstract This is a broad discussion of the key feature of Roman civil procedure, including sources, lawmaking, and rules. It covers the three principal models for procedure; special proceedings; appeals; magistrates; judges; and representation. It takes ac-count of new evidence on procedure discovered[…]

The Legal Profession in the Ancient Roman Republic

The grandeur that was Rome was actually the grandeur of Roman Law. I In ancient Greece or, to be more exact, in ancient Athens the general socio-political situation was distinctly inimical to the development of a true legal profession.[1] The sovereign and democratic people of Athens, at least during the second half of the fifth[…]

The Horatius Trial in Ancient Rome: Killing a Sister for Mourning a Fallen Enemy

Sentenced to death but acquitted in a public trial based upon his father’s appeal. The Story According to Livy, Rome and another Latin city, Alba Longa, came into conflict in what would amount to a battle for hegemony over the Latin-speaking part of Italy. So as not to exhaust either army, which would have left[…]

Crucifixion as Punishment in Ancient Rome

The goal of Roman crucifixion was not just death, but also dishonor. Introduction Crucifixion was an ancient method of execution practiced in the Roman Empire and neighboring Mediterranean cultures, such as the Persian Empire, where a person was nailed to a large wooden cross or stake and left to hang until dead. Contrary to popular[…]

A Brief History of the Development of the Common Law in Medieval England

Prior to the Norman Conquest of England in 1066, there was no unitary, national legal system. Before 1066 the English legal system involved a mass of oral customary rules, which varied according to region. The law of the Jutes in the south of England, for example, was different from that of the Mercians in the[…]

Why Magna Carta Still Matters Today

Exploring the evolution of our rights and freedoms and the relevance of the Great Charter today. Introduction Magna Carta is a cornerstone of the individual liberties that we enjoy, and it presents an ongoing challenge to arbitrary rule. But over time, while not envisaged at the time of its drafting, Magna Carta has for many[…]

Crime and Punishment in Elizabethan England

Looking at crime in Elizabethan England and the brutal punishments offenders received. Thieves and Pickpockets The crowded nave of St Paul’s Cathedral was a favourite with pickpockets and thieves, where innocent sightseers mixed with prostitutes, and servants looking for work rubbed shoulders with prosperous merchants. A visitor up from the country might be accosted by[…]

Magna Carta: Neutering a King at Runnymede in 1215

During the American Revolution, Magna Carta served to inspire and justify action in liberty’s defense. “The democratic aspiration is no mere recent phase in human history . . . It was written in Magna Carta.” Franklin Delano Roosevelt, 1941 Inaugural address Introduction On June 15, 1215, in a field at Runnymede, King John affixed his[…]

Lex Maiestatis: The Law of Treason in Ancient Rome

This refers to any one of several ancient Roman laws (leges maiestatis) dealing with crimes against the Roman people, state, or emperor. Description The very name perduellio, the name of the crime in the older Roman law, is evidence of this. Perduelles were, strictly, public enemies who bore arms against the state; and traitors were[…]