Summary Justice in the City

August 2013
1 black and white illustrations
399 pages
24.4x15 cm
London Record Society
ISBN: 9780900952531
Format: Hardback
London Record Society
BISAC HIS015000, LAW023000

Summary Justice in the City

A Selection of Cases Heard at the Guildhall Justice Room, 1752-1781

Edited by Greg T. Smith

Records from London's Guildhall reveal the workings of the law in the eighteenth century.
For centuries, the City of London's Lord Mayor and Aldermen have headed various courts and tribunals as part of their official obligations. In the City's Guildhall, Londoners from all walks of life could appear before an alderman sitting as a magistrate in the "justice room" and initiate a criminal complaint when they were the victims of crime. But what actually happened in those initial hearings between the accuser, the accused and the magistrate has remained largely obscured to history.
These records shed light on the earliest phases of a criminal prosecution and reveal the routines of criminal justice administration in the eighteenth-century metropolis. From the fragmentary minutes of the proceedings conducted before London's aldermen, who sat for a part of every working day as Justices of the Peace, we learn of the petty squabbles of the City's poor with parish officials, the ready resort to physical violence in public and private spheres, the steady campaign against prostitution, and the growing professionalism of the parish constables who policed London before the arrival of the Metropolitan Police.The records will be of interest to historians of London, social historians of crime, genealogists and scholars interested in summary or pre-trial procedures in early modern England; they are presented here with introduction and explanatory notes.

Greg T. Smith is Associate Professor of History at the University of Manitoba.

Table of Contents

Minute Books of the Guildhall Justice Room 1752-1781


This book makes a major contribution to our knowledge of both the era's criminal justice system and also daily life in the wider eighteenth-century metropolis. It will be quite invaluable to legal and social historians of the period. ARCHIVES

Offers a tantalizing insight into the working world of the City justices. As such, it is a valuable addition to the published literature. ARCHIVES AND RECORDS

Also in Series