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Mapping Criminal Law: Blackstone and the Categories of English Jurisprudence

  • Author(s): Lieberman, David
  • et al.
Abstract

"Mapping Criminal Law" examines attempts by 18th-century common lawyers to identify and delineate criminal law as a discrete and specific component of the legal order, distinguishing the legal categories of 'criminal' from 'civil' and, in this setting, the related distinction between 'public' and 'private'. The discussion focuses on Blackstone's treatment of these matters in the Commentaries: examining the native and foreign legal materials he utilized to assemble a category of law covering what he termed 'public wrongs,' and showing how this category shifted discussion away from those procedural forms in terms of which the English law governing criminal offenses had hitherto been specified. The approaches of Blackstone and other 18th-century jurists help explain the later preoccupation in English jurisprudence with the definition of criminal law and the boundary between criminal and non-criminal offenses.

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