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Let The Punishment Fit The Crime: The Social Miracle And Criminal Sentencing In Early Modern Leiden

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Chapter Summary

In England especially, early modern historians have attempted to tease social significance from scanty crime records, but attempts to do so for the Netherlands have been limited. Historians frequently characterize Dutch society in the early modern period as ‘precocious’, exceptional, or distinct from her fellow European polities, making the urban centers of the young republic an intriguing test case for the efficacy of broad social explanations of crime. An examination of crime in Leiden therefore can have implications for the social history of seventeenth-century Europe beyond the confines of its tiny northwestern corner. Many questions about early modern crime remain unanswered or unexplored first and foremost because of trouble with the sources. Using the sentencing records of the court at Leiden, the careful historian can shed light on questions of social perception of crime, including changing definitions of what constitutes a crime.

Keywords: crime records; Dutch society; early modern historians; Leiden; sentencing records; seventeenth-century Europe; social history



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