Crime in Medieval England

Data from the Rolls of the Justices of Gaol Delivery

Barbara Hanawalt (October, 2010 version)

Barbara Hanawalt is the author of a number of studies of crime, criminal justice, and punishment in medieval England. Several of her works analyze the data she gathered on violent crime and property crime from the rolls of the justices of gaol delivery of eight English counties: Essex, Herefordshire, Huntingdonshire, Norfolk, Northamptonshire, Somerset, Surrey, and Yorkshire. The originals are located in the National Archives (Public Record Office in Kew in the United Kingdom). The classification when Professor Hanawalt read these records in 1966-1968 and in 1974 was Justice Itinerate 3 (JI3). The classification is now Just. 3. Please consult the website for the National Archives for more information. An excellent Index to the rolls is in the PRO but is not published. It was done by C. A. F. Meekings.

In addition, Professor Hanawalt gathered data from some of the Oyer and Terminer sessions (JI 1) or Trailbaston sessions. These sessions were an experiment to indict and try criminals in counties where justice was being flouted. Some of the gaol delivery cases also appear in King's Bench (KB) sessions. When the justices of King's Bench were in a county, they superseded the gaol delivery sessions. The coroners' rolls are JI 2 (formerly Just. 2). The coroners were charged with investigating sudden deaths (homicide, accidents, suicides). A good guide to these is R. F. Hunnisett, The Medieval Coroner.

The data are from the following studies

  • Hanawalt, Barbara A. (1970) "A Study of Crime in Norfolk, Northamptonshire, and Yorkshire, 1300-1348." Ph.D. dissertation, University of Michigan.
  • Hanawalt, Barbara A. (1979) Crime and Conflict in English Communities, 1300-1348. Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press.

The data are described in the codebook and in the studies from which the data are drawn. The data are currently available in JPEG files made from scans of Professor Hanawalt's original notes.



Spreadsheets of English Homicide Data

English Population Estimates and Some Homicide Rate Estimates, compiled by Randolph Roth

Original notes on Gaol Delivery Rolls (.JPG files)

NOTE: The following data exist as numerous .jpg images for each of the locations. The page is under construction. In the interim, access to the images is available through either Douglas Eckberg or Randolph Roth.

  • Essex
  • Essex Trail Baston 
  • Norfolk: Gaol Delivery taken at Norwich Castle 
  • Herefordshire
  • Northamptonshire (No. p. 706) 
  • Somerset
  • Surry
  • York (No. pp. 574, 575)

Original notes on Coroners' Rolls (RAR files of JPEG files)

  • Bedfordshire
  • Cambridgeshire
  • Lincolnshire
  • London
  • Northamptonshire
  • Oxford City
  • Wiltshire

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