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Short Paper



Theaim of this paper is to summarize two articles one of which iswritten by Jeremy Hayhoe and the other one is by CarolineCastiglione. The sources that the authors wrote will be assessed andthen the two pieces will be compared.

JeremyHayhoe’s “Neighbours before the Court: Crime, village communitiesand seigneurial justice in Northern Burgundy, 1750-1790”

In“Neighbours before the Court: Crime, village communities andseigneurial justice in Northern Burgundy, 1750-1790”, Jeremy Hayhoetalks about the judicial system that was used during the period. Hebegins his argument by declaring that the notions that most legalhistorians had for the way the legal structure operated at the timewere incorrect (Hayhoe, 2003). Those crime historians had concludedthat the people of northern Burgundy were against the intervention ofthe state’s court system and they preferred having their issuesresolved traditionally rather than rely onthe seigneurial courts thatwere run by the nobles of the local community. Hayhoe affirms thatthe assumption was not what took place. He uses court records fromthe period to explain his view (Hayhoe, 2003). He goes further to saythat during the eighteenth century, the seigneurial courts hadalready encroached on the society of the time due to the influence ofthe government. The residents of Burgundy were already using thelegal system to resolve different types of wrongdoings that rangedfrom misdemeanors to felonies (Hayhoe, 2003). He expounds on why theordinary individuals took up to the idea of the structured legalframework by saying that those people knew that official judges werefair in their rulings regardless of the stature or wealth of theperson seeking justice.These court officials also dispensedreasonable punishments for crimes that were not considered as toosevere (Hayhoe, 2003).

Jeremycollected the information for his article from fifteen differentlocal courts that operated in the middle of the eighteenth century.All the courts were responsible for 25 villages and a population ofabout 7000 (Hayhoe, 2003). He also compared the ordinary courts tothe courts that handled the issue for the royalty to get more insightinto his discussion. He commented that the new system of the courtwas a form of revolution in the social structure when it comes tocriminal charges and how the commoners were treated compared to theroyalty. Both the lower and the royal courts were operating hand inhand without any rivalry. The serious cases were always referred tothe royal legal system for a more advanced ruling (Hayhoe, 2003).Even though most of the crimes committed in Burgundy at the time weremere trifle issues, these court systems had the power to execute aguilty person that did a crime which warranted such a sentence.Hayhoe included statistics for most of the offenses that werepresented in those seigneurial courts. The figures show that clearly,the majority of the crimes were minor such as theft, assault, anddomestic violence (Hayhoe, 2003). Nevertheless, there were a fewincidences of serious crimes like murder, rape, and kidnapping.Defamation was also a common issue that was always brought to suchcourts. He concludes by stating that assuming that the customs ofpeople can create a comprehensive image of the way people at the timecould differentiate civil and criminal offences was not the rightmethod. Hayhoe insists that legal issues are complex and hard topredict. However, from the records he inferred to, the seigneurialcourts were able to show some differences between the two charges(Hayhoe, 2003).

CarolineCastiglione’s “The Politics of Mercy: Village petitions and anoblewoman’s justice in the Roman countryside in the 18thcentury”

Inher article “The Politics of Mercy: Village petitions and anoblewoman’s justice in the Roman countryside in the 18thcentury”, Caroline Castiglione spoke about petitions and how theywere phenomenal in describing the nature of association between thenoble members of the society and the commoners during the eighteenthcentury (Castiglione, 2009).She stated that there are thousands ofrecords in the Vatican Archives that all show different situationswhere charity was used as a method of punishing several crimes. Atthe time, any legal issues in Italy were handled by the ruling class.They had the power to decide how every case would bedetermined.Castiglione gave an example of a noblewoman calledCornelia Costanza Barberini that hailed from a region calledstateMonteLibretti. The time was around the 1770s and Cornelia was from theBarberini family which was the most powerful in the region(Castiglione, 2009). She had the intuition to begin keeping recordsof all cases that she pardoned for the locals that were charged withvarious crimes. Her resourcefulness was a ploy that aimed atre-building the name of her family that had been associated with manyunreligious acts. She recorded every petition that she got from thevillagers and she gave those that were given leniency variousreligious tasks that had to be supervised by church officials.Castiglione affirms that the actions of this woman were dissimilar tothe status quo at the time. Any person charged with a crime usuallyreceived some draconian penalties. The writer tries to argue herpoint by saying that since Cornelia showed kindness to the poor andthe disadvantage in such matters, Cornelia was a good point ofreference when trying to understand the relationship between therulers and the subjects. After the demise of her father, Corneliawent to become a legitimate ruler and she continued improving hersystem. The writer went on to show how this woman was able to listenkeenly to every dispute before making a decision. Each accused wasguaranteed some reduction in their form of punishment and those thatwere not satisfied with Cornelia’s ruling could appeal for anotherhearing (Castiglione, 2009).

Castiglioneapplied the example in her text to say that the high-class people canoften impose laws on the people below them without considering theimpact it would bring to those persons (Castiglione, 2009). Sheinsisted that the decision of Cornelia Costanza in bringing leniencyin the conflict resolution system was an act of true justice. Theauthor stated that the legal structure was influenced by the actionsof the noblewoman by saying that the justice system is not just meantto punish, but also to reform (Castiglione, 2009).

Evaluationof Sources

JeremyHayhoe in his article used numerous sources to provide evidence forhis argument. However, the primary references involved variousarchived documents that had records for the numerous cases that theseigneurial courts dealt with. The author effectively used theinformation that he obtained from these records effectively since hewas able to state several significant cases that he had read about ina manner that made his argument appear lucid. He was also keen onciting every detail that he used in his article as away of showingthat every detail that he was providing was a historical fact and nota mere opinion (Hayhoe, 2003).

Onthe other hand, Catherine Castiglione relied on one main source forher article. She used a specific Vatican scroll to portray her maintheme through which she was able to build her argument around. Hertale of Cornelia Barberini was the pillar of her article, and she wasaimed at generating relevant information that would support hertheory. The other sources that she used were also well researchedsince all the information that she provided related to the main topicof her discussion (Castiglione, 2009).

Comparisonof the Articles

In“Neighbours before the Court: Crime, village communities andseigneurial justice in Northern Burgundy, 1750-1790”, Jeremy Hayhoetried to show the crime historians how they are wrong by concludingthat the commoners from the eighteenth century were against the courtsystems that were initiated by the then administration (Hayhoe,2003). He used various examples from preserved records to indicatethat the populace in northern Burgundy at the time was opting for theseigneurial courts due to the fairness that was guaranteed from eachruling. He also portrayed how the modern court framework began todevelop from those local set ups that were created at the time andhow the rich and the poor were subjected to the same legal system(Hayhoe, 2003).

CarolineCastiglione in “The Politics of Mercy: Village petitions and anoblewoman’s justice in the Roman countryside in the 18thcentury” attempted to explain how the issue of justice and fairnessstarted due to the actions of the noblewoman (Castiglione, 2009). Shepresented her theory using a detailed tale that had several recordedevidence. Her notion of trying to find the historical interactionbetween the leaders and the people that were under using the exampleof Cornelia from statoMonteLibretti was presented with detailed proof (Castiglione, 2009).

Thetwo authors are similar in the methods that they employed whilegathering information for their articles. They were able to usesufficient material that was all relevant to their topics. They bothwrote about the same historical period in Europe and how the changesin the legal system started to occur. The writers also tried torelate the high-class to the lower class, and they explained how therevolution of the judicial structure led to the attainment offairness and justice.


Itis evident that the two writers were focused on the historicaldevelopment of the modern justice system. Hayhoe focused in a regionin France while Castiglione talked about region in Italy. These twowriters were keen on researching for their articles and they madesure that all evidence they got from research was clearly cited andreferenced. Even though they were speaking about different aspects oflaw and justice, they presented their theories in a clear and logicalway.


Castiglione,C. (2009). “The Politics of Mercy: Village petitions and anoblewoman’s justice in the Roman countryside in the 18thcentury”. In Mathieu, Holenstein&ampBlockmanseds, EmpoweringInteractions: Political cultures and the emergence of the state inEurope 1300-1900.Ashgate, 79-90.

Hayhoe,J. D. (2003). Neighbours before the Court: Crime, Village Communitiesand Seigneurial Justice in Northern Burgundy, 1750–1790.FrenchHistory,&nbsp17(2),127-148.