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Re-assessing trial by jury in Early Modern law and literature

Dunne, Derek ORCID: 2015. Re-assessing trial by jury in Early Modern law and literature. Literature Compass 12 (10) , pp. 517-526. 10.1111/lic3.12264

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Trial by jury has been lauded as the defining feature of English common law since at least the 15th century, considered by English legal professionals to be far superior to Continental legal models. Yet there is evidence for a growing disdain for the jury in the early modern period, which was compounded by the introduction of numerous legal procedures designed to circumvent the need for trial by jury. These include multiple arraignments, the introduction of plea-bargaining and increased powers of justices of the peace for summary conviction. Little by little, such changes to the administration of justice undermined the central place traditionally afforded to the jury and in the process significantly altered the participatory structure of English common law. Meanwhile, the tension between judge and jury in the early modern courtroom is a recurring theme in the legal history of the period. Such a shift is of interest to legal historians, but it is also germane to the study of early modern literature, since law formed such an important interface between citizen and state in the period. Drama in particular has a close relationship to law in this period, so that changing how we look at the jury can change our approach to early modern plays.

Item Type: Article
Date Type: Published Online
Status: Published
Schools: English, Communication and Philosophy
Subjects: P Language and Literature > PR English literature
Publisher: Wiley-Blackwell
ISSN: 1741-4113
Date of Acceptance: 31 July 2015
Last Modified: 03 Nov 2022 09:57

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