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4 Lethal Violence: Homicide, Murder, Arson and Witchcraft

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Chapter Summary

Lesser violence might have been the most common crime in late medieval Sweden; however, lethal violence was not unusual. This chapter analyses the violent deeds that led to, or aimed to lead to, another person's death. Arson has also been included when the fire was set with the purpose of causing someone's death. The chapter argues that the legislation on homicide evolved from a male system based on revenge and compensation to a system that sentenced the killer to capital punishment. It demonstrates that the introduction of female criminal liability was uneven and hesitant for homicide: while the younger laws express a will to sentence a woman "like a man", they still tend to be more lenient. Witchcraft is one of the crimes most strongly connected to women in historical research. Witchcraft had a specific status in the Older Västgöta Law with regard to female criminal liability.

Keywords: arson; criminal liability; homicide; Sweden; violence; witchcraft; women



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