Douglas Hay's essay "Property, Authority and the Criminal Law", which sounds the opening shot for the collection titled Albion's Fatal Tree, has attracted a huge following, especially outside specialist legal history circles. Hay's main thesis is that some of the most characteristic features of eighteenth-century English criminal procedure for cases of serious crime require to be understood as "a ruling-class conspiracy" against the lower orders. In the present article I shall show that when tested against detailed evidence of the work of the felony courts, Hay's thesis appears fundamentally mistaken. (I shall not be discussing the other essays in the Albion volume.)
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