not totally slacking off!

british library sm

i have been researching crime and punishment in medieval europe so you don’t have to! (^_^)

remember my last post sneak preview: violence, punishment, outbreeding, and swashbuckling pirates in medieval england? — in which i quoted manuel eisner [pdf]:

“‘Although the long-term expansion of the state and the decline of lethal violence appear to correlate nicely on the surface, a closer look reveals several inconsistencies. Muchembled (1996), for example, points out that the decline of homicide rates in early modern Europe does not appear to correspond with the rise of the absolutist state. Rather, he argues, the example of the Low Countries shows that homicide rates declined in polities where centralized power structures never emerged and the political system much more resembled a loose association of largely independent units. Neither does intensified policing nor the harsh regime of public corporal punishment, both probably the most immediate manifestations of state power in any premodern society, seem to aid understanding of the trajectories into lower levels of homicide rates.'”

well, i’ve now got that muchembled 1996 article — “Elias und die neuere historische Forschung in Frankreich” — and i’ll post about that as soon as i (*ahem*) quit slacking off (and find my german-english dictionary). (~_^)

some other articles i picked up (and posts to look forward to):

– Norwegians and Europe: The Theme of Marriage and Consanguinity in Early Norwegian Law [source]
– Coercion, vengeance, feud and accomodation: homicide in medieval Iceland [source]
– Law and the peasant: rural society and justice in Carolingian Italy [source]
– Law and order in the age of Theoderic the Great (c.493-526) [source]

also guess this building! and breakfast at speedy’s. (^_^)

(note: comments do not require an email. diogenes of sinope.)


  1. Was just there yesterday before I got my train from St Pancras back to Leicester. It’s open until 8pm and I did consider going in as I had some time to kill. Maybe we passed each other!


  2. @HBDChick & fellow readers



  3. Dear HBD Chick, In approvingly describing your work I recounted your testing of the theory and said to Mrs Dr Thompson “So the genes for violence were lost due to capital punishment, or transportation”. “What are the figures for Australia?” she said. So, you will need to spend another week in The British Library. Best of luck with your researches.


  4. Peripheral areas, especially islands, tend to breed for strong criminality and powerful resistance to state authority. I’ve noticed this in myself and my mother’s family, most of whom were pirates.


  5. @james – “In approvingly describing your work I recounted your testing of the theory and said to Mrs Dr Thompson ‘So the genes for violence were lost due to capital punishment, or transportation’. ‘What are the figures for Australia?’ she said.”

    well, if you take a look at the chart from pinker/eisner (from previous post) which shows the decline in homicide rates in europe beginning in the 1300s, you’ll see that by far most of the decline happened in the medieval period, well before the transportations to australia — or even north america — happened. so i think we have to look to that period for the “pacification” of nw europeans and not so much the 1600s-1800s. if anything, there’s an interesting spike in homicide rates right around 1800 — whether that has to do with the increasing population or better records or something else altogether (or all of the above), i don’t know.

    anyway, not that many murderers were actually transported to australia (or north america). from l.l. robson’s The Convict Settlers of Australia: An Enquiry Into the Origin and Character of the Convicts Transported to New South Wales and Van Diemen’s Land 1787-1852, we know that out of the 125,000 transportees which he surveyed (the total number of transportees to australia was approximately 165,000 — a total of 60,000 was sent to north america, btw):

    – men outnumbered women six to one (a total of 24,960 female convicts was sent to australia)

    of the male convicts:

    – 54% were transported for unspecified larcenies
    – 15% for burglary or housebreaking
    – 11.3% for stealing domestic or farm animals (as distinct from poaching game)
    – 6% for “theft of wearing apparel”
    – 4% were sentenced for “offences of a public nature,” for instance “coining and uttering” bad money (2%) or treason (1.5%) or membership in trade unions or (the lord save us and bless us!) irish secret societies (ca. 1 convict in 5 was tried in ireland, most of them in dublin)
    – a little more than 3% were transported for “offences against the person,” which ranged from assault, rape, kidnapping and a few statistically negligible sodomy convictions to manslaughter and murder

    so something less than 3% out of ca. 106,000 convicts were murderers. if we call it 1%, that’s just 1060 murderers transported to australia in a 65 year period (16 per year). and 20% of those were irish!

    so, no – the transportation of murderers out of england probably contributed very little to the pacification of the english. like i said above, that happened earlier in the middle ages. i think the increasing use of capital punishment (in some periods, the normans favored castration, btw — same or similar effect prolly) must’ve affected the average nature of the population. however, as i said in my previous post, historians of crime have a hard time explaining why homicide rates dropped so significantly in the medieval period in the netherlands where there *wasn’t* a strong state which could impose capital punishment on the population, while on the other hand in medieval northern italy where there *were* strong states meting out capital punishment, the homicide rates *didn’t* drop. something else must’ve been going on in the nw corner of europe. i’ll be posting more about this going forward, so…stay tuned!

    @james – “So, you will need to spend another week in The British Library.”

    would’ve liked to have moved in if i could! they even have good food at the cafe there. and free wifi! what more does one need? (^_^)


  6. @chris – “Maybe we passed each other!”

    oh, no! that’s a sad thought! =( i was there in the morning on monday (the 28th). and by “morning” i mean right around noon. (~_^)


  7. @luke – “You are an amazingly indefatigable researcher once you get a bone in your mouth. My hat will always be off to you.”

    awww, shucks! (*^_^*) thanks, luke! (^_^)


  8. @maio2 – “HAPPY 2ND ANNUAL HBD DAY!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! SPREAD THE WORD, MAY 2ND IS HBD DAY.”

    oh, cripes! i forgot. ‘course i always forget our wedding anniversary, too…. (*^_^*)


  9. We know so much, and potentially so much more, about the social characteristics of European and Asian migrants to the Americas & Australasia & southern Africa etc. But I always wonder about where in the home social distribution most of the African slaves to the Americas would have fit. We have genetic data on New World African diaspora populations, but not much social information. Traditional interpretations are that there were captives of war from the interior, but I was arguing with Sam Pritchard about this and I don’t think that view is so neatly captured by the linguistic data we have, nor by the pattern of current income with slave-exporting areas ( ) I wish we could do a kind of Albion’s Seed for the New World African diaspora. Is the difference between Jamaica and Haiti mostly in the Euro admixture rate ? Or is there a difference in the African source population that also matters ? So many such questions to be asked…


  10. @pseudoerasmus – ” I wish we could do a kind of Albion’s Seed for the New World African diaspora.”

    yes! that’s something i’d really like to see, too. kinda working on that in the background here — from an historical+genetics p.o.v. there *are* some data out there.


  11. For the Indian & Chinese diasporas, not just income data, but also at the very least ethnicity/language, state/province of origin, & educational info. Of course IQ and caste (for India) and clan affiliation (for Chinese) would be really nice but that’s just asking for manna from heaven.

    On the African diaspora in the New World I also want to compile at least income data, the language registers and the genetic data are probably the best we can do about specifying source regions in Africa.

    by the way if you can read Portuguese & French you wouldn’t believe the wealth of information out there about the African diaspora. Did you know there was a Muslim slave uprising in Bahia in 1835 ?


  12. “(ca. 1 convict in 5 was tried in ireland, most of them in dublin)”: it was notoriously difficult to get Irish juries to convict – those must have been very stupid, or very guilty, criminals.


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